Japan's incoming prime minister was set to name his new Cabinet on Tuesday, keeping key members in place as the ruling party looks to revive the moribund economy and restore voter confidence ahead of next month's elections after its former leader abruptly quit last week.
Prime Minister-elect Naoto Kan will maintain the bulk of the existing administration, including the foreign and defense ministers, according to an official from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, who asked not to be identified because he isn't an official spokesman.
Those posts are especially important given increased tensions in the region after the alleged sinking of a South Korean patrol ship by a North Korean submarine two months ago, as well as Tokyo's continuing negotiations over a controversial US Marine base on the southern island of Okinawa.
The leadership handover also occurs in the middle of a parliamentary session, with upper house elections likely to be held sometime in July.
The plain-spoken Kan, known for his sometimes fiery temper and for exposing a government coverup of HIV-tainted blood products in the mid-1990s, was elected prime minister in a parliamentary vote last week to replace Yukio Hatoyama, who stepped down last week amid voter dismay over his broken campaign promises and perceived weakness as a leader.
Japan's sixth prime minister in four years, Kan was to be officially sworn in later on Tuesday in a ceremony with Emperor Akihito.
Kan's reputation and common roots in contrast to several of the previous leaders who all hailed from politically elite families could boost the DPJ's fortunes, analysts say.
"What the Japanese public wants is a government that solves problems for them. They want a government that works for them, not lofty promises," said Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington.
Recent polls show that the Democrats have already won back a measure of voter trust.
A poll published on Tuesday in the national Sankei newspaper showed that 57 per cent of recipients have high expectations for the new government, and support for the party has recovered to 31 per cent, versus 18 per cent from before Hatoyama stepped down. The Sankei survey was conducted through random telephone interviews of 1,000 eligible voters. It did not give a margin of error, but that sampling size would normally have a margin of about 5 percentage points.