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HONOLULU, EAST-WEST WIRE — Japan entered a new political era last week after Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) head Yukio Hatoyama took over as prime minister. The long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is severely and possibly permanently crippled, and facing a leadership crisis.

But it is not certain what this new era heralds or how much will really be new. Like his last three short-lived (LDP) predecessors, Hatoyama is the relatively colorless heir of a family dynasty. A privileged botchan, he is the fourth prime minister in a row to descend from a former prime minister.

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