In a party runoff election Monday, Japan’s Finance Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, defeated Trade Minister Banri Kaieda to put himself in position to be the country’s next prime minister.
A 54-year-old veteran politician, who currently serves as finance minister, is poised to become Japan’s new prime minister Tuesday.
PROFILE: YOSHIHIKO NODA
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is set to become Japan's latest prime minister, is a steadfast supporter of outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan and is expected to continue Kan's policies.
Like the unpopular current prime minister, Noda supports tax reforms, including doubling the sales tax to pay for rising social security expenses and working to bring the national debt under control.
The 54-year-old Noda would be one of the youngest Japanese leaders in recent years, and there are hopes that his age might bring about a generational shift in Japanese politics.
After graduating from Waseda University's School of Political Science and Economics, Noda first entered parliament in 1993 as a member of the now defunct Japan New Party. He lost his seat in 1996 but returned to the Diet parliament four years later as a member of the now-ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Since then, he rose rapidly through the party ranks, served as the DPJ's Diet affairs chief and headed its public relations office.
Noda was named senior vice minister of finance when the DPJ took control of parliament in September 2009. He was elevated to finance minister nine months later when Kan became prime minister.
Yoshihiko Noda was selected by the majority of the members of parliament from the Democratic Party of Japan who cast ballots Monday in Tokyo.
The official party announcement in the runoff election that Noda has received 215 votes, while Trade Minister Banri Kaieda garnered 177 votes.
Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who opinion polls indicated was the public’s favorite in the contest, finished third out of five candidates in the first round of Monday’s party election.
The DPJ controls the more powerful lower house of parliament, thus Noda is ensured victory in Tuesday’s voting to select the prime minister.
Noda favors raising taxes to deal with Japan’s debt and to revive the moribund economy, the world’s third largest.
Speaking to his fellow lawmakers immediately after his election as party president, Noda vowed to battle deflation and stem the continuing rise of the Japanese currency, which hurts the country’s competitiveness.
Noda also vows a redoubling of efforts to help Japan recover from the natural and nuclear disasters of mid-March.
The calamities led to the downfall of the man Noda will succeed - the outgoing prime minister, Naoto Kan. He stepped down as party president on Friday after less than 15 months in office, clearing the way for the DPJ election.
Kan’s popularity plummeted as his government attempted to cope with the unprecedented triple disaster that hit the country on March 11: the magnitude 9.0 earthquake which triggered a massive tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of reactors at the coastal Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. The disasters have left 20,000 people dead or missing.
However, there are few expectations Kan’s successor will stay in offer for a long time. Noda will become Japan’s sixth government leader since Junichiro Koizumi left office in September, 2006.
The DPJ is beset with political infighting. Some analysts predict the party could split within months. Others expect a general election to be held next year which will bring back into power the opposition conservatives, the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP has run Japan for most of the post-World War II era.