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Japan's new PM to tap Taro Aso, former prime minister, for finance post

Shinzo Abe, elected Japan's news prime minister, will offer the finance minster's job to Taro Aso, a former prime minister and Liberal Democratic Party veteran. 

By Stanley WhiteReuters / December 17, 2012

Taro Aso, then Japanese Prime Minister, looks on during a bilateral meeting in Rome in 2009. Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to appoint Aso, a veteran lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party, as finance minister, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters/File

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Tokyo

Japan's next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will offer the finance minister's job to Taro Aso, media said, a veteran lawmaker and former prime minister expected to toe the party line calling for aggressive monetary easing and a public works splurge.

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Asahi and Mainichi newspapers reported on Tuesday Aso would get the finance post while Yomiuri said Aso, 72, was also being considered as a possible foreign minister.

Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its small ally New Komeito captured a two-thirds majority in Sunday's landslide, will announce his cabinet line-up on Dec. 26.

The choice of Aso suggests that Abe is looking to LDP veterans to fill important positions to avoid criticism that his ministers lack experience, a recurring complaint about cabinets of the Democratic Party of Japan that trounced the LDP in 2009, only to suffer a crushing defeat three years later.

Abe's own first cabinet similarly suffered criticism that he picked lawmakers close to him personally rather than those best qualified for the job.

When Aso was prime minister, he launched massive economic stimulus packages to combat the 2008-2009 financial crisis, but his efforts were overshadowed by gaffes, scandals and policy flip-flops that culminated with the LDP losing power after more than half a century of an almost non-stop rule.

 Like Abe, Aso has an elite political lineage and like the next premier is a grandson of a prime minister.

Abe, who quit abruptly in 2007 after just one year in office, says he has learned from past mistakes and has been working hard to project an image of a strong, mature and decisive leader.

Buoyed by the election victory, which political analysts saw more as voters' payback for the Democrats' troubled rule than a full embrace of the LDP, Abe has swiftly moved to press his agenda.

On Monday, he turned up the heat on the Bank of Japan to boost its monetary stimulus when it ends its two-day meeting on Thursday and pressing it to adopt a more ambitious 2 percent inflation target as soon as next month.

On Tuesday, Abe told reporters that he had agreed in a telephone call with U.S. President Barack Obama that the two would try to meet next month, part of a push to strengthen ties with Washington and give Japan a greater global security role.

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