Japan gets another prime minister: Can he stop the revolving door leadership? (VIDEO)
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda won the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) presidency Monday and will replace Naoto Kan as prime minister. The aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake will test his leadership.
Yoshihiko Noda is slated to become Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years after the resignation of the unpopular Naoto Kan on Friday. But Mr. Noda's emphasis on collaboration is offering some hope that he will be able to slow his country's revolving-door leadership, despite a host of daunting challenges at home and abroad.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The former finance minister in the government of Mr. Kan, who resigned after just 450 days in office, confronts major tests in the aftermath of March’s triple disasters, a deeply divided party, and a strong currency that is making exports even more expensive in a stuttering global economy. He also faces potentially strained relations with Japan’s closest neighbors and an unforgiving electorate and media at home.
Still, some observers are cautiously optimistic.
“He seems to treasure harmony, unlike Kan and Hatoyama [Kan’s predecessor], so he may last a little longer if he looks for cooperation with the opposition parties,” says Takashi Koyama, professor of politics at Akita International University.
Noda defeated trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda in a second round run-off by 215 votes to 177 in a ballot of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) lawmakers and is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday. Five candidates ran in the first round though nobody achieved an overall majority. Seiji Maehara, by far the most popular of the five with the public, was eliminated in the first round.
Known as a fiscal conservative in the left-leaning DPJ, Noda had stated an intention to increase taxes to help control Japan’s huge and growing national debt. However, he has recently been backpedaling away from that stance as Japan’s economy has registered its third straight quarter of contraction.
“He doesn’t have much room for maneuver with policies for the economy, even less than the other candidates would have done because of his statements about raising tax,” says Martin Schulz, senior economist at the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo.
However, Dr. Schulz believes any tax rises will be “on the back burner for the next couple of years until reconstruction from the disaster is complete and the economy recovers.”