Ex-Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama to quit politics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 3:56am

Former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama said yesterday he would retire from politics at next month's election and leave the party he founded and led to an historic election victory in 2009.

Hatoyama, whose wild-eyed expression contributed to Japan's press dubbing him "The Alien", met Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to discuss his plans.

Noda told reporters that Hatoyama had said he "will not run in the general election, and is retiring from politics".

Commentators predict the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will get a drubbing at the December 16 poll and opinion polls suggest a coalition is likely.

Hatoyama's opposition to Noda's sales tax rise and plans to join a trans-Pacific free-trade deal were reportedly instrumental in the decision. "I don't have a choice but to leave the party because the party's policy is way too different from my ideals," he told supporters, according to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun.

Despite his pledge to step down, Hatoyama has a history of changing his mind and his personal wealth makes him an appealing recruit for some of the smaller parties that are springing up around single issues ahead of the poll.

He became prime minister in 2009 when the DPJ ended half-a-century of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

His reputation as a bringer of change took a battering when he reversed course on a plan to remove a controversial US airforce base in Okinawa, angering both voters and provoking Washington in a short space of time.

He resigned from the post after nine months in office, short even by the standards of Japan's revolving-door premiership.