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Political Dynasty Heir Hatoyama Becomes Japan's New Prime Minister

By VOA News
16 September 2009

Japan's new prime minister, 62-year-old Yukio Hatoyama, may have been elected into office because of his pledges of radical change, but his personal story is not that different from other past Japanese prime ministers.

Like many others, Mr. Hatoyama is the heir to a powerful political dynasty and comes from a wealthy family. He is one of the country's wealthiest lawmakers and his grandfather, former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, even helped create the powerful Liberal Democratic Party, which he defeated and has ruled Japan almost continuously since its founding in 1955.

Politics run deep in his family. His father was a foreign minister in the 1970s, and his brother was a cabinet minister in the outgoing government of Prime Minister Taro Aso. Another grandfather founded the world's largest tiremaker, Bridgestone.

An engineer by training and former professor, Mr. Hatoyama first stepped into politics when he took over his father's parliamentary seat in Hokkaido in 1986.

He left the LDP more than a decade ago to help form the Democratic Party of Japan, but resigned as its leader in 2002.

In May of this year, after a political financial scandal forced former DPJ head Ichiro Ozawa to resign, Mr. Hatoyama was re-elected as the party's chairman.

His campaign of "revolutionary change" for the country helped sweep the DPJ into office and now he has much work ahead of him as he tries to follow through on his promises.

Mr. Hatoyama has pledged radical change and to pursue a new course that would take the world's number-two economy away from what he considers the excesses of U.S.-style capitalism.

Mr. Hatoyama has promised to redirect money and resources away from corporations and toward families in the form of child care support and free education.

He has also indicated that Japan will seek closer economic cooperation with neighboring China.
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