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World News

Factbox: Japan's "revolving door" prime ministers

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Wednesday he would resign after just eight months in office after a slide in the polls threatened his party’s chances in an election expected next month.

The ruling Democratic Party will choose a new leader on Friday, but analysts say a change at the top may fail to impress voters fed up with prime ministers leaving office one after another.

Hatoyama is Japan’s fourth prime minister in as many years.

The following is a chronology of Hatoyama’s recent predecessors:

YOSHIRO MORI (April 2000-April 2001)

Mori, a political veteran but a policy novice, was picked by four barons in the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a backroom deal to replace Keizo Obuchi, who died of a stroke.

His limp public support vanished after a string of verbal gaffes and scandals, prompting party lawmakers to call for his resignation before an upper house election. Mori brought forward a party leadership election to pick his replacement.

JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI (April 2001-Sept 2006)

Dubbed a maverick for his outspoken ways, Koizumi appealed to the public with calls for reform and won resounding support from rank-and-file party members afraid the LDP was headed for a thrashing in an upper house election.

His rock star-like popularity helped him become Japan’s third-longest serving postwar leader. Koizumi served out his term after leading the LDP to a huge win in a 2005 election he called a referendum on his pet project to privatize the postal system.

SHINZO ABE (Sept 2006-Sept 2007)

Abe was initially popular with voters for his fresh image as Japan’s first prime minister born after World War Two and his tough stance on North Korea, but his ratings soon crumbled on gaffes and scandals in his cabinet.

Voter anger over lost pension records and perceptions that he was out of touch with ordinary people on economic policies led to a big defeat for the LDP in an upper house election in 2007. Abe quit abruptly two months later, citing health reasons.

YASUO FUKUDA (Sept 2007-Sept 2008)

Fukuda won support from rank-and-file LDP members who sought political stability after Abe, but he struggled to make headway on policies as opposition parties used their majority in the upper house to stall legislation.

An attempt to form a “grand coalition” with the Democratic Party -- then the main opposition party -- flopped. Resisting calls from the opposition to call a snap election, Fukuda resigned suddenly after less than a year in office.

TARO ASO (Sept 2008-Sept 2009)

A conservative and a fan of manga comic books, Aso was chosen by the LDP to boost the party’s election chances but he too saw his ratings evaporate as policies stalled in parliament and the economy took a hit from the global financial crisis.

LDP lawmakers called for his resignation but with no obvious successor he clung to his job. Aso stepped down after the LDP lost a general election to Hatoyama’s Democratic Party, ending more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka, editing by Miral Fahmy and Michael Watson

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