Challenges lay ahead for Japan's new prime minister

14:16, June 05, 2010      

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Naoto Kan, chief of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was elected the country's prime minister on Friday.

Succeeding Yukio Hatoyama, Kan is struggling to lead his party to a victory in the upcoming upper house election, improve relations with the United States and slash the country's huge public debt.

As the country's sixth prime minister since 2006, Kan has to ensure his party's success in upper house elections scheduled in mid-July so as to guarantee the smooth passage of bills.

During Hatoyama's eight-month tenure, the DPJ had to woo a coalition with the Social Democratic Party and the Japan New Party to assure a majority in the upper house.

But the ruling coalition has fallen apart. The Social Democratic Party joined the opposition and the image of the DPJ became increasingly sullied in the minds of the people, following Hatoyama's backtracking on a campaign pledge to move an unpopular U.S. marine base off the southern island of Okinawa.

"I will make the Democratic Party of Japan a clean party that can be trusted by the Japanese people," Kan said after being elected prime minister.

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