Yukio Hatoyama’s party video puts family values first. He comes from a political family, he says family values are important, and he wants to help Japan’s families rather than its businesses as they struggle with the recession. Throughout the campaign he put people first, hammering home the differences between his personal approach and the more business-orientated line of the Liberal Democrat government. As election day drew near, political analysts became increasingly convinced Hatoyama was the man to beat.
“I think that the past three prime ministers from the LDP failed to connect with the people,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, an analyst at the Tokyo Foundation. “That is the major reason for people’s frustration, and I think, in that sense, Mr Hatoyama will be a good prime minister.” The new leader’s family is steeped in politics. His father was foreign minister, his grandfather prime minister and a founder of the now-defeated LDP. But Hatoyama’s dissatisfaction with the party which dominated Japanese politics was growing, and he left in 1993 to help launch the Democrats. Today’s victory will be especially sweet. He faces daunting challenges: the economy is in the doldrums, unemployment is rising and, to add insult to injury, some unkind critics call him “the Alien” because of his prominent eyes. He’s now charged with kickstarting the world’s second largest economy, although some say he is not driven enough. When asked via his website what he most looked forward to, his answer was: “Taking a nap.”