June 3 (Reuters) - Shinji Tarutoko, a relatively unknown lawmaker from Japan’s ruling Democratic Party, said on Thursday he would run for the party leadership to replace Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
The Democrats will vote on Friday to pick a new leader, and hence the prime minister. Tarutoko will face Finance Minister Naoto Kan, who is seen as the front-runner to succeed Hatoyama, who resigned on Wednesday after just eight months in office.
Following are some facts about Tarutoko.
-- Tarutoko, 50, heads the lower house environment committee. In a survey by the Mainichi newspaper ahead of last year’s general election, Tarutoko backed the party line that a decision on raising the consumption tax from the current 5 percent should wait until after the next general election, due by late 2013. He also said he did not rate former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s structural reforms very highly. But not much is known about his recent views on economic policy.
-- He is one of seven members of a group led by party elder Kozo Watanabe that has distanced itself from party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, who is widely seen as pulling the strings behind Hatoyama’s government. But he is also reported to be close to pro-Ozawa lawmakers.
-- In the Mainichi survey, Tarutoko said he was for revising the pacifist Article Nine of Japan’s 1947 U.S.-drafted constitution but also said Japan should never consider arming with nuclear weapons.
-- After graduating from the economics department of Osaka University, Tarutoko went to a school for political leaders that embraces free-market economic policies, called the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, which boasts 70 politicians among its alumni including some cabinet members. (Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)