Yoshihiko Noda elected new Japanese PM

Former finance minister Yoshihiko Noda was on Tuesday elected Japan`s new Prime Minister following elections held at the House of Representatives.

Tokyo: Former finance minister Yoshihiko Noda was on Tuesday confirmed as Japan`s sixth new Prime Minister in five years, starting a term in which he must push quake recovery, contain a nuclear crisis and revive the economy.

His unpopular predecessor Naoto Kan, in office just 15 months, and his cabinet resigned in the morning, making way for Noda.

Noda, 54 -- who on Monday beat four rivals in the ruling centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ballot to become its new president -- is expected to pick his ministerial lineup in coming days.

In a display of humour and humility, Noda stressed Monday he is an ordinary man without star power or looks and promised a moderate leadership style that seeks to unite the deeply divided party and engage the conservative opposition.

He has said he is open to the idea of a grand coalition with the main opposition group, the Liberal Democratic Party, who were ousted in a landslide two years ago but who can obstruct and block bills in the upper house.

Noda inherits a set of pressing long-term challenges.

As finance minister since June last year, the fiscal conservative has steered the world`s third-largest economy as it suffered the effects of the global financial crisis and Japan`s March 11 triple calamity.
Faced with terrible public finances, he has promoted raising taxes rather than borrowing to pay for quake and nuclear disaster relief, and to reduce a public debt that has ballooned to twice the size of the economy.

Noda has also battled to bring down Japan`s strong yen, which has soared to post-war highs as a safe haven currency amid global market turmoil, hurting Japan`s exporters and threatening a gradual post-quake recovery.

On the question of nuclear power, which his predecessor Kan wanted to phase out following the Fukushima disaster, Noda has said that currently shut-down reactors should be restarted once they are deemed safe.
On the foreign policy front, like most of his political peers in Japan, Noda has stated his support for a strong US security alliance and has voiced concern about rising military spending by Asian rival China.

Weeks ago Noda angered Japan`s neighbours, especially South Korea, with comments defending war criminals who are among dead soldiers honoured at Tokyo`s Yasukuni shrine, a long-time flashpoint for East Asian relations.

Japan`s revolving-door leadership, due in part to bitter factional infighting and a busy electoral calendar, is widely seen as muddying the DPJ`s policy goals and weakening the country`s position on the world stage.

Bureau Report