Japan to confirm Noda as new PM

Yoshihiko Noda is set to be confirmed Tuesday 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 and his entire cabinet resigned in the morning, making way for Noda, the former finance minister, to be confirmed by parliament as the new premier later in the day.

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, appointed as the new prime minister leaves a press conference at his office in Tokyo on August 30, 2011

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

A previously low-profile politician, Noda has stressed that he is an ordinary man without star power or looks and has promised a moderate leadership style that seeks to unite the divided party and engage the opposition.

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

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.

He has promoted raising taxes rather than borrowing more money to pay for the massive quake and nuclear disaster relief, and to reduce a public debt that has ballooned to twice the size of the economy.

Noda 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 said he supports a strong US security alliance and has voiced concern about rising military spending by Asian rival China.

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

Japan's chronic 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.

Kan lasted in office just 15 months. Although his anti-nuclear stance tapped into broader public sentiment in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, his leadership style otherwise disappointed the electorate.

His support ratings had plunged from a one-time high of about 65 percent to around 15 percent before he announced last week he would bow out.

AFP

Other news