TOKYO-- There's nothing like a crisis to get Japanese politicians on the go. Three days after Keizo Obuchi is hospitalized after suffering a stroke Sunday, Japan has a new prime minister.
Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP), was officially elected as the new prime minister Wednesday. The new leader is not expected to push Japan back into the dark ages since Mori, a long-time supporter of Obuchi, will likely continue plugging the government's reform programs on Japan Inc.
That said, the new premier is not really known for his decisive leadership skills. Rather, he's considered to be the LDP's best choice to quickly close the political vacuum after Obuchi's stroke. With the LDP's three-party coalition with the Liberal and New Komei parties hanging by a thread, the LDP needed a body that both parties could agree on, hence Mori.
Mori's resume doesn't look bad by any means, with various senior postings including
Minister of Education
Minister of International Trade and Industry
in 1992 and the
Minister of Construction
in 1995. Not shabby, but Mori lacks experience in one key area: foreign affairs. That's going to make the hosting of the
Group of Eight
summit in Okinawa a bit tough for the new premier.
Does the stock market care? Not yet, anyway.
index fell by a few notches Wednesday, the market is more wary about the performance of U.S. equities and Japanese Net plays. However, uncertainty will continue over the medium-term since Parliament's Lower House still needs to conduct elections by mid-October. Local papers suggest snap elections will be called in May or June so the LDP can capitalize on "sympathy" votes to garner a majority. A different make-up of parliamentary figures could put Japan in a state of confusion both politically and financially.
In addition, the power base within the LDP now switches from the prime minister to the kingpins of the LDP, most notably to
, the new LDP
, former and current head of the
Policy Affairs Council
. Some investors think Nonaka and Kamei may opt to slow down the pace of reform in the months to come.
But early indications of a new prime minister's abilities can be misleading. When Obuchi came into power nine months ago, he was coined as having the personality of a "cold pizza." However, the former premier surprised everyone when he shuffled through economic stimulus packages and tough regulatory changes that forced crust Japan to motivate and change.
One reminder, however. Political experts are in no hurry to give Mori a catchy nickname since in political circles, Japan's new leader is already said to have "the heart of an ant and the brains of a shark."