TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is set to pick its sixth prime minister in five years in a ruling Democratic Party leadership race set for Monday.
Below are key facts about the five most recent Japanese prime ministers and why they left office.
Abe, a conservative from the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who tried to boost Japan’s global security profile and promote traditional values, struggled to fill the shoes of his charismatic predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
The grandson of a prime minister, Abe quit abruptly after a year plagued by scandals, an election rout and a parliamentary crisis over Japan’s support for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan. Poor health also played a part in his resignation.
Like Abe, the short-tempered Fukuda quit suddenly in the face of political deadlock, born of a divided parliament in which opposition parties had the power to delay legislation.
The son of a former prime minister, Fukuda also suffered from conflict between the LDP and its junior coalition partner, the New Komeito, which was wary of letting him lead the ruling bloc into an election.
Aso, like Abe a right-leaning scion of an elite political family, resigned after leading his ruling LDP to a crushing election defeat that ended the party’s five decades of dominance and swept the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to power.
The outspoken Aso, who represented Japan as a skeet shooter at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, caused turmoil in the LDP as his policy flip-flops and gaffes took a heavy toll on support ratings.
Hatoyama, also a grandson of a prime minister, was nicknamed the “alien” for his prominent eyes and quirky comments. He took over as head of the DPJ when his predecessor quit over a funding scandal just months before the 2009 general election.
The party scored a landslide election victory on promises of change, ending the LDP’s more than half-century of dominance.
But Hatoyama’s ratings plunged after months of indecision and unfulfilled promises, including a campaign pledge to try to move a U.S. military base off Japan’s southern Okinawa. He caved in to pressure to step down to improve the DPJ’s chances at an upper house election, although the party lost anyway.
Kan, previously a fiery civic activist, became a vocal proponent of fiscal reform after watching Greece’s debt crisis while serving as finance minister. He ran into trouble a month after taking office when his clumsily handled proposal for a debate on tax reform contributed to the ruling coalition’s defeat at the polls and loss of its upper house majority.
Kan came under further fire for his response to the earthquake and tsunami in March and the resulting nuclear disaster. He survived a no-confidence vote in June with a pledge to resign, buying time to become the longest serving prime minister in five years, albeit by a margin of a few weeks.
Kan’s proposal to wean Japan from dependence on nuclear power resonated with voters after the disaster and some analysts say this was behind his rough handling by rivals and mainstream media, long linked closely to utilities. But he failed to turn support for the policy into popular support.
Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Ron Popeski