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Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Japanese PM urged to call election
Yoshiro Mori and reporters
Journalists criticised the way Mori had been appointed
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's first day in office on Thursday has been marked by calls for a general election - a suggestion which he had earlier dismissed.



The process of selecting Mr Mori as the prime minister's successor took place in a back room

Asahi Shimbun newspaper
Mr Mori was appointed by Liberal Democrat Party officials to replace Keizo Obuchi, who has been declared brain dead after suffering a stroke.

Newspapers demanded that Mr Mori call a general election to prove his mandate - dashing hopes that the appointment would avert a succession crisis.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper branded the new prime minister as "unknown and unpromising".

"Delaying a dissolution of the lower house and a general election any longer would risk cutting the string that connects politics and voters," said the Asahi Shimbun.

Constitutionally, Mr Mori is not obliged to call an election before 19 October.

After being sworn in on Wednesday, the new prime minister said he wanted parliament to stay open to keep abreast of the urgent task of economic recovery.

Continuity

Asahi Shimbun also criticised the process whereby Mr Mori was appointed.

I must continue to keep Prime Minister Obuchi's thoughts in mind

Yoshiro Mori
"As a matter of fact, the process of selecting Mr Mori as the prime minister's successor took place in a back room," the newspaper said in an editorial.

Mr Mori, who was previously second in command in the LDP, was appointed to replace the ailing Mr Obuchi as party president - and the LDP majority in parliament then voted him in as prime minister.

In a signal of continuity, Mr Mori reappointed the entire cabinet which had served under his predecessor.

Yoshiro Mori and Keizo Obuchi
Mori (left) wants to follow in the footsteps of Obuchi (right)
"I must continue to keep Prime Minister Obuchi's thoughts in mind," Mr Mori said on Thursday.

"That is very important to me."

Newspapers also dwelt on Mr Mori's reputation for gaffes, after he used the outdated and derogatory term "Shina" to refer to China in his inaugural speech.

US welcome

Foreign reaction to Mr Mori's arrival was less hostile than in Japan.

US State Department spokesman James Rubin described Mr Mori as an "extremely able and experienced political leader".

"We warmly welcome his election by the Diet [parliament], and congratulate him on his victory," Mr Rubin said.

Singapore's Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, also said the Japanese leader should be given a chance to prove himself: "He has just been sworn in, and to be fair, let him show what he can do."

Mr Obuchi meanwhile remained in a coma and on life support at a Tokyo hospital.

His wife and children were with him, but his brother returned home, amid reports that the former prime minister's condition could remain the same for some time.

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See also:

05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese early elections scotched
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
New Japanese PM chosen
04 Apr 00 | Media reports
Media spotlight on Obuchi's illness
04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's workaholic culture
02 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Keizo Obuchi
03 Apr 00 | Business
Japan's economy shakes off worries
02 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mount Usu tremors slow down
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