The Japanese parliament has elected the country’s fifth prime minister in three years. As expected, Naoto Kan is the new leader, having already been chosen as head of the ruling Democratic Party.
The move follows Yukio Hatoyama’s surprise resignation.
The 63-year old Kan had been serving as finance minister and deputy prime minister.
“We want to continue the Hatoyama cabinet’s dreams and build a new government together,” he told MPs. “I need your help, please support me.”
The new prime minister will have to convince the Japanese people, disillusioned with the centre-left government’s performance. Kan made his name by fighting bureaucracy. He has pushed for higher taxes and spending cuts to tackle Japan’s huge national debt, the second biggest in the industrialised world.
Shoppers in Tokyo watched the latest developments on screens in an electical store.
“Mr Kan is always cheerful,” said one man, “so I’m sure he’ll lead Japan towards brighter days”.
But others questioned his capacity to make a difference.
“I don’t know if the government will change just by changing the leader really,” said a young woman. “I’d support him if he can change the government from within.”
Kan says Tokyo’s alliance with Washington remains crucial. But he made no pledges over the future of an American military base that damaged US-Japanese relations and led to his predecessor’s resignation.