Little Could Change With Japans New Leader

While the White House scrambles to rescind invitations for next weeks now-canceled state dinner for just-resigned Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, the worlds business community is wondering who will be named to succeed Hashimoto -- which could happen by this time next week -- and what business and economic policy changes will follow.

The leading candidates for Prime Minister are Keizo Obuchi, much like Hashimoto, but weak on economic fundamentals and charisma; Seiroku Kajiyama, an aggressive, some say belligerent, right-winger; and Junichiro Koizumi, a young maverick with little experience but lots of Hollywood-style charm. Tradition dictates the new leader will be Obuchi, the current foreign minister and the leader of conservative Liberal Democratic Partys (LDP) largest faction. But the LDPs failure to aggressively address Japans ongoing recession and to set basic economic reforms in motion is being widely blamed for the partys poor showing in last Sundays parliamentary elections. Consequently, its far from certain that much will change when a new prime minister is formally elected on July 30.

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