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NEWSMAKER - Japan new PM puts fraternity at heart of philosophy
TOKYO (Reuters) - For Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, it's all about love and brotherhood.
Hatoyama, leader of the decade-old Democratic Party, has put the fuzzy notion of "yuai", or fraternity, at the core of his political philosophy, puzzling many voters and raising eyebrows abroad when he twins it with criticism of global capitalism.
Some also wonder how different he will be from the ageing politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which lost power to the Democrats in an Aug. 30 poll after ruling for most of the last 54 years, given his grandfather helped found the LDP.
"He has not really shown much leadership quality, (or) whether he's got backbone," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus.
Hatoyama -- once nicknamed "the alien" -- perhaps for his prominent eyes, perhaps for his other-worldly ideas -- has attacked the LDP for letting elite bureaucrats control policy decisions.
"It won't be easy to change politics that depended on bureaucrats. It'll be a lot of trial and error," Hatoyama told party lawmakers a day before formally taking office on Wednesday.
"There's no question that big challenges await us, since we are embarking on a style of politics that's never been experienced before."
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) picked the bouffant-haired Hatoyama, 62, to lead the party after his predecessor stepped down over a funding scandal.
Supporters argued Hatoyama was best able to hold the sometimes fractious party together, even if he was less popular among ordinary voters than a rival for the leadership post.
"It's very important not to have enemies," said one Democratic Party source, explaining Hatoyama's victory.
His party leadership campaign slogan of "fraternity", a concept he inherited from his grandfather, sparked more bemusement than interest among voters more focused on economic woes and rising unemployment.
Though the concept is seen by some analysts as vague, Hatoyama uses the word to advocate closer-knit communities at home and better relations with countries abroad, especially East Asia.
In an essay published last month in the New York Times, Hatoyama railed at what he called the "unrestrained market fundamentalism" of U.S.-led globalisation.
"Fraternity" was the answer, he said, calling it a "principle that aims to adjust to the excesses of the current globalised brand of capitalism and accommodate local economic practices that have been fostered through our traditions".
In the lead up to the general election, Hatoyama was more popular than Prime Minister Taro Aso in opinion polls, although many voters said they saw neither as suitable to be premier.
Like his predecessor Taro Aso, Japan's new leader hails from a wealthy family of industrialists and politicians.
His mother's father founded Bridgestone Corp, one of the world's largest tyre makers. His other grandfather was prime minister.
When media reported in June that some donations to Hatoyama's political fund had been attributed to people who were dead, he denied any illegality, saying that an aide had mislabelled cash from his own fortune that he had handed over for safe keeping.
The son of a former foreign minister and holder of a doctorate from Stanford University, Hatoyama left the LDP in 1993 along with dozens of other party rebels.
The defections touched off a chain reaction that resulted in the ousting of the long-ruling conservative party by a reformist, multi-party coalition that lasted just 10 months.
In 1998 he helped establish the Democratic Party and served as leader before resigning in 2002.
Hatoyama's platform says his party will wrest power from bureaucrats as a way to cut wasteful expenditure and rebuild faith in Japan's creaking national pension scheme.
He has has also criticised the LDP for being too close to the United States in its security and diplomatic policies.
"I am worried about the current government because it does everything the United States says, even when such action is not recognised by the United Nations," Hatoyama said earlier this year, an apparent reference to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that went ahead without backing from the world body.
Hatoyama is married to a former musical actress, Miyuki, who has published books on cookery and another which she says she travelled to Venus in an alien space ship.
Miyuki also told a television interviewer she met Tom Cruise in a former life when he was Japanese, one of several comments that attracted world-wide media attention.
"When my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular UFO and went to Venus," she wrote in a book entitled "Very Strange Things I've Encountered." "It was a very beautiful place and it was really green."
(Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka and Linda Sieg)
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