Hosokawa voted Japan's new PM
REFORMER Morohiro Hosokawa was last night elected Prime Minister of Japan in a vote that formally ended 38 years of unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
In another break with the past, the former chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Takako Doi, became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the Lower House of Japan's parliament, the Diet.
Mr Hosokawa's election, with clear majorities in both houses of the Diet, marked the beginning of a new era in Japanese politics, which is expected to see progress towards the development of a two-party system to replace the previous dominance of the LDP.
The new Prime Minister leads a fragile seven-party coalition in the Lower House. The alliance has been formed to initiate sweeping reform of the electoral and political systems.
But Mr Hosokawa's election last night came too late for him to take office. Emperor Akihito had left Tokyo to attend the funeral of Belgium's King Baudouin in Brussels. The new cabinet will not be inducted into office until the Emperor returns after the weekend.
This means that Japan will, in effect, not have a government for the next three days as Mr Hosokawa undertakes further consultation on the composition of his cabinet.
Three votes taken last night were decisively in favour of the new ruling coalition. In the initial vote for the Speaker's seat, Ms Doi secured 264 votes from the seven-party coalition against 222 for the LDP candidate and 15 for the Communist nominee.
In the vote in the Upper House, where LDP's opposition has had control since 1989, Mr Hosokawa won by 132 votes to 93, with 11 votes going to the Communist candidate.
In the crucial vote in the House of Representatives, Mr Hosokawa won by 262 votes to 224 for new LDP leader Yohei Kono and 17 for other candidates.