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Monday, September 22, 2008

Taro Aso


Taro Aso, Japanese PMTaro Aso, 68, was today elected at the new leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and will become the next Prime Minister.

A conservative hawk, who favors pump-priming the economy, Aso is the grandson of post World War II Prime Minster, Yoshida Shigeru.

It was 4th time lucky for the "charismatic" Aso who lost out in previous leadership elections to Junichiro Koizumi, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda.

Aso easily won the vote by LDP MPs and regional party members - winning 351 out of the 527 votes cast, way ahead of his nearest challengers in the leadership race, Kaoru Yosano and Yuriko Koike, who polled just 66 and 46 votes, respectively.

Aso, a Roman Catholic, known for his straight-talking, frequent gaffes and love of Japan's manga culture, is a controversial figure and a member of the political elite that has ruled Japan since the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Aso is related not only to post-war premier Yoshida Shigera but also Meiji oligarch Toshimichi Okubo.

Aso studied at both Stanford University and the London School of Economics in his early years before joining his father's company Aso Mining Company in 1966. Aso served as president of the company from 1973 to 1979 and penned the firm's official history - making no mention of the wartime slave laborers (Koreans and Allied POWs) who were forced to work in Aso Mining's copper mines during World War II. Aso was also a member of the Japanese shooting team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Aso's election signals a pronounced step to the right for Japan after Fukuda's term in office. Aso is a traditionalist and nationalist who favors a strong foreign policy stance vis-a-vis China and North Korea, though it remains to be seen if he will follow in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's footsteps and visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Aso has made a number of contentious remarks during his colorful political career including disparaging a burakumin (dowa) minority MP and firmly rejecting calls for a woman to ascend to the imperial throne.

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