Japan’s shortest serving post-war prime minister Tsutomu Hata dies at 82

His 64-day stint as prime minister, the shortest since the Japanese Constitution entered into force in 1947, was marked by instability

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 10:45pm

Former Japanese prime minister Tsutomu Hata has died of natural causes. He was 82.

Hata headed a coalition government for two months between April and June 1994 while leading the now-defunct Japan Renewal Party.

He was first elected as lower house member from a constituency in Nagano Prefecture in 1969 and retired from politics in 2012.

A native of Tokyo, Hata graduated from Seijo University in the capital and worked for a bus company before entering politics.

After a shares-for-favours scandal in the late 1980s that snared prominent politicians, he spearheaded political reforms, including Japan’s adoption of single-member electoral districts, as the head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) election system research committee.

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He had cabinet portfolios as agriculture minister and finance minister under the LDP, before leaving the party along with Ichiro Ozawa and other lawmakers to create a new party in 1993.

He served as foreign minister in Morihiro Hosokawa’s anti-LDP minority coalition government formed in August 1993 before replacing Hosokawa as prime minister the following year.

His 64-day stint as prime minister, the shortest since the Japanese Constitution entered into force in 1947, was marked by instability.

Hata developed a reputation during his long political career as being more China-friendly than many of his predecessors.

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He spoke publicly about the need for Japan to apologise for its warring past and the atrocities of the Nanking massacre of 1937, which occurred in the city today called Nanjing.

He was one of the few former world leaders invited to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule, and remained involved in efforts to improve Japan-China economic ties in his later years, as a stalwart of Japan’s main opposition party.

Hata was also known for his adoption of short-sleeved suits in summer to promote saving power in the workplace, predating the start of the government-wide “Cool Biz” dress code in 2005.

His son Yuichiro Hata is an upper house lawmaker with the main opposition Democratic Party.