Japanese finance minister Noda set to become prime minister

August 30th, 2011 - 12:43 am ICT by BNO News  

TOKYO (BNO NEWS) — Japan’s governing Democratic Party (DPJ) on Monday choose Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as its new leader, lining him up to become the country’s new prime minister after premier Naoto Kan announced his resignation on Friday.

The election took place during a general meeting of DPJ Diet members in Tokyo. Five candidates, Seiji Maehara, Sumio Mabuchi, Banri Kaieda, Yoshihiko Noda and Michihiko Kano stood for election.

None of the candidates obtained the necessary majority of more than half of the eligible votes in the initial ballot, leading to a run-off between the top two candidates, Kaieda and Noda. Following the second ballot, Noda defeated Trade Minister Banri Kaieda by winning 215 of the eligible votes against 177 votes which Kaieda received.

Kaieda, who was backed by former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa and former PM Yukio Hatoyama, led the first round with 143 votes, while Noda only received 102.

However, Noda won the run-off thanks to the ballots of supporters of former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Farm Minister Michihiko Kano, who were defeated in the first round.

Elections in both houses of the National Diet are scheduled to be held on Tuesday. Although the Upper House is controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party-led opposition camp, Noda is expected to win the elections since the more powerful Lower House is controlled by Noda’s party, the DPJ and its small ally, the People’s New Party.

A Noda cabinet, which is expected to be formed on Tuesday or Wednesday, will probably be a coalition of the DPJ and People’s New Party. It would make Noda the country’s 62nd prime minister.

According to the Japanese media, the Noda administration will face a difficult agenda, including reuniting a divided party whose conflicts were intensified during the elections. “Let’s stop taking sides,” Noda said as quoted by The Japan Times newspaper. “If the DPJ loses power and falls apart, it will just please the old [conservative LDP] regime. Should we allow it to get back into office?”

Another immediate issue is raising funds for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which happened in March. The revenue sources for reconstruction programs might include tax hikes.

“I want to do a job that makes the public think it was good that there was a political power shift” by confronting issues including the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, restoration following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the strong yen and deflation, Noda said.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan will remain in his post until Noda is formally appointed as prime minister by the Emperor of Japan, Akihito.

Kan resigned on Friday after almost 15 months in office amid sinking approval ratings and criticism of his leadership after the March 11 disaster that delayed important legislation needed to help the victims.

Japan has been facing an ongoing nuclear crisis since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged on March 11 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami devastated the country. At least 23,482 people were killed, while 8,069 people remain missing.

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