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.
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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.”Skip to next paragraph
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As finance minister, Noda was vocal in proposing government intervention to weaken the strong yen which has hurt Japan’s exporters when weak domestic demand means that overseas markets offer the only hope of growth. Nevertheless, with foreign exchange markets having grown exponentially in recent years, even the $50 billion spent by the government post-disaster has provided only temporary relief.
“All the intervention does is buy a few days of weak yen for exporters to cash in, and then it carries on back on the same trend of strengthening,” says Dr. Schulz.
With Japan’s national debt already at around 200 percent of GDP – the highest ratio of any country except Zimbabwe – there will also be pressure on Noda to tackle that $10 trillion problem.
Before he can attempt any policy initiatives, the new prime minister must try to unify a DPJ so wrought with internal divisions that five candidates representing its various factions stood in today’s leadership election.
The appointment of cabinet positions will then be as much about placating those competing groups as it will be about finding the most capable ministers for the respective posts.
As the revolving door of premiers continues to turn, many are wondering whether anybody can be a successful Japanese prime minister, even as the country seems to be crying out for strong leadership. While Noda’s nonconfrontational style may help him to some extent in Japan’s consensus-driven politics, few expect him to be inspirational.
“He is calm and a compromiser who doesn’t get into fights with other politicians for emotional reasons,” says Professor Koyama.
Noda is also likely to need some of those skills to smooth relations with China and South Korea, who he recently angered with his statement earlier this month that convicted Japanese Class-A war criminals were not in fact guilty of war crimes. Japanese wartime aggression and its perceived failure to acknowledge its actions remains a thorny issue with its Asian neighbors 66 years after the end of World War II.
“If he doesn’t manage to resolve this issue with China and Korea, then Japan could once again become more isolated in Asia,” says Professor Koyama.
Whatever Noda brings to the table, it simply may not be enough to satisfy Japan’s fickle electorate. A poll before Kan announced his resignation showed that a majority of voters didn’t believe the next prime minister would last more than a year, whoever it turned out to be.