Noda wins Japan leadership race

Updated: 2011-08-29 15:42


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TOKYO - Japan's ruling Democratic Part of Japan (DPJ) on Monday picked Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda to be the party's next leader and almost certainly the nation's sixth prime minister in five years, in a party presidential election.

Following a runoff vote between favorites Noda, 54, who secured 215 votes, and economic, industrial and trade minister Banri Kaieda, 62, who secured 177, Noda will now almost definitely be named Japan's new prime mister as early as Tuesday and will serve out Kan's term as the party's chief until September 2012.

Noda wins Japan leadership race

Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda (L), who was chosen as the new leader of Japan's ruling Democratic Party, attends a news conference after the party's leadership vote in Tokyo August 29, 2011. [Photo/Agencies] 


Born on May 20, 1957 into a poor family in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Noda, in his speech prior to Monday's vote held at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, made no apologies for his tough upbringing on the outskirts of Tokyo.

"It's the reason why I do not look like a 'city boy,'" he said, adding that his introduction to politics was a gloomy one.

A son of a serviceman in Japan's Self-Defense forces, and a graduate of Tokyo's prestigious School of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University, Noda went to a school for political leaders that champions free-market economic policies, called the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management. The school boasts 70 politicians among its alumni, including some currently serving as cabinet members.

Noda in 1993 was first elected to the Diet representing the No. 4 region of Chiba Prefecture as a member of the now obsolete Japan New Party, but lost his House of Representatives seat in 1996, only to return to national politics in 2000 on the DPJ ticket and become a lawmaker.

Noda was initially charged with heading the party's public relations office as well as being its Diet affairs chief. When the DPJ secured power of the Diet in September 2009, Noda was appointed senior vice finance minister.

In June 2010 Noda was appointed as Minister of Finance by Kan, himself also a former finance minister.


In his role as finance minister, Noda has earned a reputation as a fiscal conservative and has directly overseen the nation's fiscal, tax and currency policies.

He has vowed to cut public debt through fiscal reforms, including a proposed increase in the 5 percent sales tax, a move that when mentioned by Kan, was largely believed to have lost the DPJ's hold over the upper house of parliament, meaning that key policies and related bills to enact them can be blocked by opposition party's due to Japan's bicameral system of parliament.

Noda flexed the power of his ministry, known as the most powerful office in Japanese bureaucracy, when he asserted his influence on other members of the Group of Seven nations in a joint currency intervention following the yen's surge after the March 11 multiple disasters.

Also, this month Noda ordered a massive yen selling operation to cool a persistently strong yen and maintains that disorderly currency moves threaten to hurt the stability of Japan's fragile economy and global financial markets and that he is closely watching exchange rates.

As the nation's next leader he is expected to hold a tight rein over all fiscal affairs as he has consistently vowed to battle to ensure Japan escapes the vice-like grip of deflation, by any means necessary.


Noda believes in reviewing some of the DPJ's campaign pledges made in 2009, in order to cooperate more closely with the main opposition LDP and Noda has said he is not adverse to forming a Grand Coalition with the opposition to best tackle the nation's myriad obstacles and enact the legislation necessary to overcome them.

Despite the LDP already once refusing the DPJ's offer to join forces, Noda's willingness to compromise on some key issues may help smooth relations with an opposition block vexed by Kan's ineffectual leadership and funding scandals involving both himself and some of his senior ministers.

Almost certain to become the nation's prime minister as soon as Tuesday, Noda has said that rebuilding Japan to its former glory after the devastating affects of the March disasters is a top priority and that in the best interests of the country, it will be prudent to for the DPJ to swiftly build bridges between the two major parties, instead of allowing rifts to widen.

Noda has openly said he cannot envision a Japan entirely free of nuclear energy and has distanced himself somewhat from Kan's wholesale nuclear reduction rhetoric, which has endeared himself to a number of opposition party members.

His foreign policy initiatives may be thwarted following controversial comments made about Japanese wartime leaders. This year on the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender he said that Japanese Class-A war criminals were in fact not war criminals.


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