August 31, 2009 / 8:00 AM / 10 years ago

Q+A: What happens next after Japanese election?

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s next leader, Yukio Hatoyama, began talks on Monday on forming a government to tackle challenges such as record joblessness and a fast-aging society after voters gave his party a sweeping mandate for change.

Sunday’s historic election win by Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ended a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and will usher in a government that has promised to focus spending on consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of bureaucrats.

Below are some questions and answers about what is likely to happen, and when.

HOW SOON WILL PARLIAMENT VOTE ON A NEW PM?

A special session of parliament must be held within 30 days of the election to vote on a new prime minister.

The date of the session will be formally decided by Prime Minister Taro Aso, who would then resign along with his cabinet before a vote by each chamber. Aso said he would also resign as the head of the LDP after the long-ruling party’s election loss.

But the actual timing will be decided in discussions by senior lawmakers from each political party. Parliament is expected to be convened in the week of September 14.

HOW SOON WILL A NEW CABINET BE FORMED AFTER THE PM IS CHOSEN?

Hatoyama is to set up a transition team to organize the change of government, but has said he will not announce his cabinet until he is officially elected prime minister.

Some analysts say the new leader will take some extra time to make careful checks of potential ministers’ background to avoid tapping anyone with a scandal lurking in the closet.

Hatoyama has said he wants to appoint members of parliament to the key posts of foreign and finance ministers and chief cabinet secretary, dampening but not killing speculation he might draft someone from the private sector for these portfolios.

The minister in charge of a new National Strategy Bureau Hatoyama plans to create will also be key. The bureau, comprised of public and private sector members and reporting to the prime minister, will outline a policy vision and formulate the budget framework.

WHAT ARE THE NEW GOVERNMENT’S FIRST PRIORITIES?

Japan’s new leader will be keen to attend a series of international meetings starting with a U.N. climate change conference in New York on September 22, a U.N. General Assembly meeting and a G20 leaders summit in Pittsburgh on September 24-25.

Budgetary matters will also claim much of the new government’s attention. Democratic Party leaders have said they might freeze or redirect some of the 14 trillion yen ($151.1 billion) in stimulus spending planned for the year to March 31, 2010.

They may have to craft an extra budget to cover an expected tax revenue shortfall, adding to worries about sky-high public debt.

And they will need to get started on drafting the annual budget for the year from next April 1, but the party leaders have said they would disregard budget requests from government ministries compiled on Monday and start them all over again.

It is likely to announce an outline for the 2010/11 budget in early October and will try to complete the budget draft before the year-end, the Nikkei business daily reported.

($1=92.63 Yen)

Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Linda Sieg

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