Japan's finance minister to be new PM

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda was chosen to become Japan's sixth prime minister in five years, but needs to overcome a divided parliament and deep rifts in the ruling party if he is to make more of a mark than his recent predecessors.

Noda appears to be a safe pair of hands to lead the world's third-biggest economy but there are serious doubts whether he will have sufficient support to tackle Japan's myriad economic woes, lift it out of decades of stagnation and cope with a nuclear crisis.



The 54-year-old Noda, who defeated Trade Minister Banri Kaieda in a run-off vote in the ruling party, must deal with a resurgent yen that threatens exports, forge a new energy policy while ending the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, and find funds to rebuild from the March 11 tsunami at a time when huge public debt has already triggered a credit downgrade.



"Noda has inherited all the same problems - a divided parliament, a divided party, a strong yen, a Tohoku (northeastern Japan) desperate for progress on reconstruction and an early end to the nuclear crisis," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Japan campus.



"I think the honeymoon will be very short-lived."



No Japanese prime minister has lasted much more than a year since 2006 and most market players polled by Reuters this month thought the next government head would be no exception.



.



Noda, who will be confirmed by parliament on Tuesday, will be the third premier since his ruling Democratic Party of Japan swept to power in 2009, promising change.



Instead of a deep debate over how to jolt Japan out of decades of stagnation, the party vote turned into a battle between allies and critics of Ichiro Ozawa, a 69-year-old political mastermind who heads the party's biggest group even as he faces trial on charges of misreporting donations.



Kaieda, backed by Ozawa, got 177 votes in the run-off while Noda, supported by Ozawa critics, won the backing of 215 MPs. That suggests Ozawa will remain a divisive force, although his clout is less than it once was.



CHINA, U.S. TIES



Noda's rise to the top job could cause some friction with China after he recently repeated that Japanese wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal after Japan's defeat in World War Two were not "war criminals" under domestic law.



He has also said China's rapid military buildup and expanding naval activities pose a serious regional risk, and stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.



"To improve the relationship between the world's second and third biggest economies, Noda's cabinet has to carefully craft and implement a proper policy in treating Japan's war past to soothe the resentment among the Chinese public toward Japan," China's official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.



Financial markets were little affected although a rise in the stock market was tempered since the prime minister in waiting has said Japan will need to raise taxes.



Bond markets however welcomed the choice of Noda, who among the candidates was the only one consistently calling for Japan to face painful reforms to curb its massive debt.



"Let's do the utmost to tackle what we have promised and if there's not enough money, we might ask the people to share the burden," Noda said before the party vote.



The finance minister, who knocked out telegenic former foreign minister Seiji Maehara - the favourite of ordinary voters - in the first round, injected a rare moment of levity into the tense event.



The jowly, stocky lawmaker compared himself to a "dojo" loach fish - an eel-like inhabitant of the deep.



"I do look like this and if I become prime minister, the support rate would not rise, so I would not call a snap election. A loach has its own abilities even though it cannot do as a goldfish does."



Optimists said that Noda's low-key style might in fact be what Japan needs now. "Just because the world never heard of him doesnt mean he doesn't command quiet respect," said Andrew Horvat, director of the Standfor Center in Kyoto.



"That is one of the qualities of a great Japanese leader ... This is not a time for big talk and inappropriate actions."



One of Noda's big challenges will be seeking opposition help in parliament, where it controls the upper house and can block bills. He has floated the idea of a "grand coalition" with opposition rivals, but the two biggest rival groups are cool.



"We won't flat out oppose one. But realistically thinking, the likelihood of it succeeding is small and there are more factors that are likely to make it fail," Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of the No.2 opposition party, the New Komeito, told Reuters when asked about the possibility of a coalition.



The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, he added, wants to press for a snap election.



Noda has said Japan should not build new atomic reactors, effectively phasing out nuclear power over 40 years. But he wants to restart off-line reactors after safety checks to avoid a power crunch. Japan relied on atomic power for about 30 percent of its electricity before the Fukushima nuclear crisis.



Source: AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss