Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 10:24 UK

Taro Aso confirmed as Japan's PM

Taro Aso stands up among fellow lawmakers applauding after he won the vote to become prime minister
Taro Aso was voted into the post of party leader on Monday

Japan's parliament has confirmed flamboyant conservative Taro Aso as the country's new prime minister.

But reflecting the deep division facing Mr Aso, the lower house was forced to overrule the upper house's alternative choice of an opposition figure.

A stable of well-established right-wing politicians emerged as the likely members of Mr Aso's new cabinet.

But analysts suggested Mr Aso was likely to call a snap election in a bid to shore up his political authority.

Mr Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has dominated Japanese politics for more than 50 years, but is now facing an ascendant opposition.

The final battle has begun
Ichiro Ozawa
Head of opposition Democratic Party of Japan

The last prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, resigned from his post in early September after less than a year, frustrated by the ability of the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament to stymie his legislative plans.

In addition Japan is facing stormy economic conditions, reflected in Mr Aso's remarks to reporters before being confirmed in his post.

"When I look at the financial situation and other things, I feel like we're in a turbulent period - not in peacetime," he said.

"Frankly speaking, I am once again feeling the gravity of my responsibilities."

Tips for cabinet

Mr Aso was able to benefit from the LDP's two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet when his bid for the prime minister's post came up for approval.

He was approved by the lower house, only for the upper house to swing its weight behind Ichiro Ozawa, head of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DJP), forcing the more powerful lower house to override it in a third vote.

A number of ruling party politicians emerged as likely figures in Mr Aso's new cabinet.

Ruling party hawk and former economic minister Shoichi Nakagawa was identified as the likely new finance minister.

Hirofumi Nakasone - son of one of Japan's most best-known premiers, the nationalist Yasuhiro Nakasone - was thought likely to acquire the foreign affairs ministry.

Mr Aso's erstwhile rival for the LDP leadership, fiscal conservative Kaoru Yosano, was tipped to remain in his post of economics minister despite apparent key differences with Mr Aso over the right way to revitalise the Japanese economy.

Risky election

Another former rival, Shigeru Ishiba, was also thought likely to appear in a new cabinet.

Analysts suggest any new cabinet is unlikely to be in post long, as Mr Aso is thought likely to call new general elections quickly.

But in doing so, he would risk ceding even more political territory to the opposition, they caution.

DJP leader Mr Ozawa appeared to relish the challenge in his remarks quoted by AFP news agency on Wednesday.

"The final battle has begun. The autumn of elections - the autumn to change the government - is coming," he reportedly said.

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