(For more on Japan's election, click [ID:nPOLJP])
* Opposition Democrats to take power after historic win
* Hatoyama must tackle struggling economy, record
* Japan Democrats face pressure to deliver on promises
(Adds Hatoyama quote in paragraph 4)
By Linda Sieg
TOKYO, Aug 31 Japan's next leader Yukio
Hatoyama, fresh from a historic election win, faced the task on
Monday of forming a government to tackle challenges such as
reviving the economy and steering a new course with close ally
Sunday's victory by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
ends a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) and breaks a deadlock in parliament,
ushering in a government that has promised to focus spending on
consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of
But the untested Democrats, who will face an upper house
election in less than a year, will have to move quickly to keep
support among voters worried about a record jobless rate and a
rapidly ageing society that is inflating social security costs.
"It's taken a long time, but we have at last reached the
starting line," Hatoyama told a news conference at his home in
Tokyo on Monday. "This is by no means the destination. At long
last we are able to move politics, to create a new kind of
politics that will fulfill the expectations of the people."
Official figures have not yet been released, but media
forecasts show the Democrats with about 308 seats in the
480-seat lower house, compared with only 119 for the LDP.
Hatoyama was expected to quickly set up a transition team
to prepare to take power but said he would not name his cabinet
until the new parliament voted him in as prime minister.
Financial markets are expected to welcome the end to a
political deadlock that has stymied policies as Japan struggled
with its worst recession since World War Two. The Democrats and
its small allies won control of the upper house in 2007.
Analysts say the decade-old Democrats' spending plans might
give a short-term lift to the economy, just now emerging from
recession, but worry that its programmes will boost a public
debt already equal to about 170 percent of GDP. [JP/]
The party has vowed not to raise the 5 percent sales tax
for four years while it focuses on cutting wasteful spending.
"The problem is how much the Democrats can truly deliver in
the first 100 days. If they can come up with a cabinet line-up
swiftly, that will ease market concerns over their ability to
govern," said Koichi Haji, chief economist at NLI Research
The Democratic Party victory ended a three-way partnership
between the LDP, big business and bureaucrats that turned Japan
into an economic juggernaut after the country's defeat in World
War Two. That strategy foundered when Japan's "bubble" economy
burst in the late 1980s and growth has stagnated since.
PRESSURE ON DEMOCRATS TO DELIVER
Support for the LDP, which has ruled for all but 10 months
since its founding in 1955, has been on a downtrend for years,
but charismatic leader Junichiro Koizumi managed to lead the
party to a huge election win in 2005 with promises of
Those reforms came under fire even within the LDP for
worsening social and income gaps and were further attacked
after the global financial crisis tipped Japan into recession.
In an essay published this month in the New York Times,
Hatoyama railed at what he called the "unrestrained market
fundamentalism" of U.S.-led globalisation but at his news
conference sought to allay any concerns raised by those
"We are not saying that the (free) market principles are
all bad ... But the current economic situation is one where
there need to be corrections in areas where reform went too
far," Hatoyama said.
A series of scandals, policy flip-flops and a perceived
inability to address deep-rooted problems such as creaking
pension and health care systems eroded the LDP mandate.
Voters, having taken a gamble on change, will want to see
proof quickly that the Democrats can do a better job.
"It's going to be crucial how they spend the first year in
office, so in that sense they have to get focused very quickly
to get things accomplished," said Sophia University professor
Koichi Nakano. "Otherwise, the goodwill may dissipate very
quickly and they may face a hostile upper house within a year."
Hatoyama will want to have his cabinet up and running in
time to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting and a G20
leaders summit in Pittsburgh in September.
The Democrats want to forge a diplomatic stance more
independent of the United States, raising fears about possible
friction in the alliance. They have also vowed to improve ties
with Asian neighbours, often frayed by bitter wartime memories.
"(Hatoyama) is basically articulating the idea that the
U.S.-led Pax Americana era has come* to an end," said Sheila
Smith at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"My sense of the DPJ is that they have wanted a little
distance between Tokyo and Washington."
Budgetary matters will claim much of the government's
attention in its early days. Party leaders have said they might
freeze or redirect some of the 14 trillion yen ($149.5 billion)
in stimulus spending planned for the year to March 31, 2010.
They may have to craft an extra budget for the current
fiscal year to cover an expected tax revenue shortfall, and
Japanese media said the party wants to have an outline of the
budget for 2010/2011 by sometime in October.
(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota and Yoko Nishikawa in
Tokyo and Paul Eckert in Washington, Editing by Dean Yates and