Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno agreed today to become Japan’s next prime minister, at the behest of a governing party crippled by scandal and divided by the choice.
The Liberal Democrats turned to Uno, 66, after elder statesman Masayoshi Ito refused the job.
Uno was attending a meeting in Paris and agreed by telephone, apparently with some reluctance, to become head of the party and to replace Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.
Ryutaro Hashimoto, deputy secretary-general of the party, appeared at a news conference and quoted Uno as saying: “I am not confident I can handle the job when the party is facing such a difficult time, but now that the party is in an unprecedented crisis I will commit myself for the party.”
Hashimoto said party leaders decided Uno was “currently the most-suited candidate as successor” to Takeshita. The prime minister is resigning to take responsibility for the Recruit influence-buying scandal, which stained the top ranks of politics, business and the bureaucracy.
Opposition within the party indicated Uno may have a difficult time even if he gets the expected approval from Parliament, where the Liberal Democrats have a large majority.
Some oppose the foreign minister because he is a senior member of the party faction of former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, during whose tenure in 1982-87 the scandal developed.
“I am outraged by this nonsense of giving the country’s highest office, which only one person can assume, to a sort of managing director of the Nakasone company,” former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda told reporters. “I am totally amazed.”
Fukuda, 84, had lobbied against Uno. His own name was one of many mentioned as possible candidates during the long search.
Tsuruo Yamaguchi, secretary-general of the Japan Socialist Party, the largest opposition group, said: “The Recruit scandal involved corruption during Yasuhiro Nakasone’s administration. It is . . . a violent act to appoint one of Nakasone’s aides as the next prime minister.”