Japan's powerful lower house of Parliament, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party, voted overwhelmingly in favor of Yasuo Fukuda. His closest competitor was the opposition candidate, Ichiro Ozawa.
The 71-year-old Mr. Fukuda was installed without the endorsement of the opposition-led upper house of Parliament. But under Japanese parliamentary rules, the vote of the lower house overrides that of the upper house.
Mr. Fukuda, who is seen as a moderate, replaces the hawkish Shinzo Abe, who resigned on September 12 after the LDP's massive defeat in July elections. Mr. Abe apologized Monday for abruptly resigning and said he did so only because of his deteriorating health.
The split decision of Japan's parliament foreshadows the challenges facing Japan's new leader, particularly the need to find a way to work with the opposition.
Mr. Fukuda also inherits the task of restoring public confidence in government, and in the LDP, after a series of financial scandals.
Mr. Fukuda is the eldest son of former prime minister Takeo Fukuda and served as chief Cabinet secretary under Junichiro Koizumi.
International University of Japan Political Science Professor Tomohito Shinoda says Mr. Fukuda's experience as Cabinet secretary equips him to serve as the nation's leader.
"So he knows the ... challenges and difficulties we are facing both in domestic affairs and foreign affairs," Shinoda said. "That is his strength."
Mr. Fukuda retained many of his predecessor's Cabinet ministers. Nobutaka Machimura, the foreign minister under Mr. Abe, will serve as chief Cabinet secretary. Former defense minister Masahiko Komura was appointed as foreign minister.