NPR logo Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda Seen as Caretaker


Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda Seen as Caretaker

Yasuo Fukuda was elected prime minister of Japan — filling the role Shinzo Abe left vacant in mid-September. Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images hide caption

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Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

Yasuo Fukuda won the coveted top spot in Japan this week, acending to prime minister and filling the role Shinzo Abe left vacant in mid-September.

The moderate Fukuda beat out Taro Aso, a conservative former foreign minister, to head the Liberal Democratic Party — which paved the way for his subsequent election by parliament as head of state.

The leader promised to rebuild public trust in his party, which is struggling to maintain its decades-long lock on power.

Fukada is seen as a caretaker by many. But he will have challenges ahead, including a budget deficit and an upper pariliment run by the opposition party.

The 71-year-old Fukuda is the longest serving chief cabinet secretary in Japan's history. That post includes the role of chief government spokesman, and Fukuda is known as an extremely careful speaker.

LDP faction bosses said they chose him to head the party because of his experience and steady hand. But others say that the faction bosses backed Fukuda in exchange for guarantees of key government positions for themselves or their faction members.

Fukuda was initially in the running to succeed former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, under whom he served, but then yielded to Shinzo Abe. He is a member of the LDP's Machimura faction, as was Shinzo Abe and Junichiro Koizumi.

Fukuda is a political blueblood, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda. After graduating from Waseda University, he worked for an oil company for 17 years, and came to politics surprisingly late in his career at age 41. He was elected to the Japanese House of Representatives representing central Japan's Gunma prefecture.

Fukuda is known as a moderate on foreign policy issues. He has publicly pledged not to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the remains of World War II war criminals. He has warned against unnecessarily irking China with the shrine visits and criticized Koizumi's annual trips to the temple.