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Populist Naoto Kan promises to 'rebuild' Japan as new PM

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Asia is the region leading global growth ... we can have relations with China, India, Vietnam and other developing countries in which we complement each other in technology and economic structuring,” he said.

Kan’s election will probably stem the losses the DPJ could have expected in upcoming July polls had Hatoyama stayed in office, says Yasunori Sone, a professor of political science at Keio University in Tokyo.

“Hatoyama’s failure was not just about Futenma, which wasn’t even mentioned in the DPJ manifesto, but about his inability to implement other policies,” he says. “Kan’s best option for now is to apologize for past mistakes, be honest about what the government can financially afford to do, and rebuild his party’s decisionmaking structure.”

Kan sought to reassure voters he would breathe life into the political revolution they set in motion last August, when the DPJ bested its long-ruling rival, the Liberal Democratic Party [LDP], in a landslide.

But, says Mr. Sone, “a change in leadership is not enough for a full recovery; it’s not enough for the Japanese people.”

Analysts expect a boost for the DPJ from Kan’s election, but only coming weeks will tell if voters warm to an “ordinary” man whose love for politics began as a student in the great environmental campaigns of the 1970s.

If his multiparty background suggests a certain past flirtatiousness, observers say his stubbornness could be his most damaging personality trait. It is not for nothing that he has earned the nickname “Kan the Irritable.”

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