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.
First Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 09:21