August 30, 2009 / 11:40 AM / 8 years ago

Next Japan PM talks of "fraternity" and love

TOKYO (Reuters) - For the next prime minister of Japan, it’s all about love and fraternity.

Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama has put the fuzzy notion of “yuai,” or fraternity, at the core of his political philosophy, puzzling many voters and raising eyebrows abroad when he twins it with criticism of global capitalism.

Some also wonder if he will be radically different from the aging politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which lost power to the Democrats on Sunday after ruling for most of the last 54 years, given his grandfather helped found the LDP.

Hatoyama has constantly attacked the LDP for leaving policy-making in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.

“As a result, there have been policies that are out of touch with people and that lack love,” he said during a race for the Democratic Party leadership in May.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) picked the bouffant-haired Hatoyama, 62, to lead the party after his predecessor stepped down over a funding scandal.

Supporters argued Hatoyama was best able to hold the sometimes fractious party together, even if he was less popular among ordinary voters than his rival for the leadership post.

“It’s very important not to have enemies,” said one Democratic Party source, explaining Hatoyama’s victory.

His party leadership campaign slogan of “fraternity,” a concept he inherited from his grandfather, sparked more bemusement than interest among voters more focused on economic woes and rising unemployment.

Though seen by some analysts as vague, Hatoyama uses the word to advocate his goals for closer-knit communities at home and better relations with countries abroad, especially East Asia.

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 globalization.

“Fraternity” was the answer, he said, calling it a “principle that aims to adjust to the excesses of the current globalize brand of capitalism and accommodate local economic practices that have been fostered through our traditions.”

WEALTHY FAMILY

In the lead up to the general election, Hatoyama was more popular than Prime Minister Taro Aso in opinion polls, although many voters said they saw neither as suitable to be premier.

“His best quality is that he’s not Aso,” said Jeff Kingston, professor of Asian studies at Temple University’s Tokyo campus.

“He’s prominent, but he doesn’t leave a strong impression.”

Hatoyama, once nicknamed “the alien” for his unusual eyes, comes from a wealthy family of industrialists and politicians. His mother’s father founded Bridgestone Corp, one of the world’s largest tire makers. His grandfather was a former prime minister.

When media reported in June that some donations to Hatoyama’s political fund had been attributed to people who were dead, he denied any illegality, saying that an aide had mislabeled cash from his own fortune that he had handed over for safe keeping.

The son of a former foreign minister and holder of a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University, Hatoyama left the LDP in 1993 along with dozens of other party rebels.

The defections touched off a chain reaction that resulted in the ousting of the long-ruling conservative party by a reformist, multi-party coalition that lasted just 10 months.

In 1998 he helped establish the Democratic Party and served as leader before resigning in 2002.

Hatoyama’s platform says his party would wrest power from bureaucrats as a way to cut wasteful expenditure and rebuild faith in Japan’s creaking national pension scheme.

He has also criticized the LDP for being too close to the United States in its security and diplomatic policies.

“I am worried about the current government because it does everything the United States says, even when such action is not recognized by the United Nations,” Hatoyama said earlier this year, an apparent reference to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that went ahead without backing from the world body.

Hatoyama is married to a former musical actress who has also published several cookbooks. He has one son.

Critics have sometimes accused him of being wishy-washy.

A question-and-answer section on his official website once posed the query: “What would you most like to do right now?”

His answer: “Take a nap.”

Editing by Dean Yates

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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