TOKYO – Japan’s governing Democratic Party (DPJ) has chosen Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as its leader, lining him up to become the country’s sixth prime minister in five years, according to the BBC.
Noda secured victory in a run-off against Trade Minister Banri Kaieda, after a first-round vote in which no candidate won a clear majority. Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced his resignation on Friday. He has been criticised for his handling of the quake aftermath. Noda, 54, is expected to be confirmed by parliament as prime minister on Tuesday. He secured 215 votes in the ballot against Kaieda’s 177 votes.
Supporters of public favourite Seiji Maehara – the former foreign minister who was eliminated in first-round voting – threw their support behind Noda in the second ballot.
Kaieda was backed by scandal-hit party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, who controls the DPJ’s biggest faction.
The new prime minister will face a daunting agenda, including trying to unify a divided party. Large parts of Japan need to be rebuilt after March’s earthquake and tsunami, and the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant still needs to be resolved.
Added to that, Noda, a fiscal conservative, will need to address Japan’s stagnant economy. He has said in the past that he favours raising funds through increased taxation – including a doubling of Japan’s sales tax, which currently stands at 5% – to cut debt and meet social security commitments.
Unlike Kan, he wants Japan’s halted nuclear reactors to be restarted and has not backed his call for a nuclear-free Japan. “Let us sweat together for the sake of the people,” he said after the vote. “This is my heartfelt wish.”