Parliament today approved Sosuke Uno as prime minister, and he pledged reforms to clear the air of an influence-peddling scandal that has decimated the top ranks of the governing Liberal Democratic Party.
The 66-year-old former foreign minister also spoke out against the United States, saying Washington’s use of its new trade law to force concessions from Japan was “like negotiating with your fists up.”
The conservative party also got new leaders, and Uno chose a new Cabinet in a bid to wipe the slate clean of the Recruit influence-buying scandal before elections for half the upper house of Parliament, expected within two months.
The scandal surfaced a year ago, ruined many careers and forced Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, 65, to resign and take responsibility for a widespread loss of trust in politics.
The two houses of Parliament met separately today and selected Uno as Japan’s 18th postwar prime minister on the strength of the Liberal Democrats’ majorities in each chamber.
In the lower house, Uno got 285 of 477 votes, with Japan Socialist Party Chairwoman Takako Doi receiving 139, Eiichi Nagasue of the Democratic Socialist Party 26 and Kenji Miyamoto of the Communist Party 25. Two votes were ruled invalid.
The upper house gave Uno 124 of 220 votes, with Doi capturing 65, Miyamoto 17 and Nagasue 9. Five ballots were blank, officials announced.
Officials said Uno will follow his predecessor’s policies toward the United States but will not soften his tough response to Washington’s designation of Japan as a potential target of U.S. trade sanctions for supercomputers, satellites and lumber.
“Uno is behind no one in appreciating the importance of U.S.-Japan relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe told reporters.