Japan's finance minister to be new PM

Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:57am EDT
 

By Linda Sieg and Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda was chosen on Monday to become the sixth prime minister in five years, but he needs to overcome a divided parliament and deep rifts in the ruling party if he is to make more of a mark than his recent predecessors.

Noda appears to be a safe pair of hands to lead the world's third-biggest economy but there are serious doubts whether he will have sufficient support to tackle Japan's myriad economic woes, lift it out of decades of stagnation and cope with a nuclear crisis.

The 54-year-old Noda, who defeated Trade Minister Banri Kaieda in a run-off vote in the ruling party, must deal with a resurgent yen that threatens exports, forge a new energy policy while ending the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, and find funds to rebuild from the March 11 tsunami at a time when huge public debt has already triggered a credit downgrade.

"Noda has inherited all the same problems -- a divided parliament, a divided party, a strong yen, a Tohoku (northeastern Japan) desperate for progress on reconstruction and an early end to the nuclear crisis," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Japan campus.

"I think the honeymoon will be very short-lived."

No Japanese prime minister has lasted much more than a year since 2006 and most market players polled by Reuters this month thought the next government head would be no exception.

Noda, who will be confirmed by parliament on Tuesday, will be the third premier since his ruling Democratic Party of Japan swept to power in 2009, promising change.

Instead of a deep debate over how to jolt Japan out of decades of stagnation, the party vote turned into a battle between allies and critics of Ichiro Ozawa, a 69-year-old political mastermind who heads the party's biggest group even as he faces trial on charges of misreporting donations.   Continued...

 
<p>Japan's Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda (L), who was chosen as the new leader of Japan's ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a news conference after the party's leadership vote in Tokyo August 29, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>