TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's government unexpectedly delayed a widely expected nomination to the Bank of Japan's policy board on Wednesday, raising concerns the appointment could become ensnared in a political battle with opposition parties.
The Nikkei business daily reported earlier that academic Yutaka Harada, a proponent of aggressive steps to end deflation, was expected to be nominated on Wednesday to the central bank's nine-member board.
Harada, 64, was intended to replace Ryuzo Miyao, a 50-year-old former academic and a policy dove whose five-year term expires in March. Miyao supported additional monetary easing in a 5-4 vote in October.
Opposition lawmakers said it was "regrettable" that domestic media reported who the government would nominate only hours before it was scheduled to present the name in parliament, according to Masaharu Nakagawa, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party politician.
The comments stirred memories of seven years ago when Japan's opposition scuppered a nomination because the name was leaked and it rejected other nominees, which prevented the government from getting its first-choice candidate on the board.
Nakagawa, who is chairman of the upper house steering committee where the nominee was to be presented, also said he had no idea when the government would submit its nomination.
Filling the BOJ vacancy with the right person is critical to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, because he has pledged to end 15 years of deflation and stagnation with bold monetary easing and economic reforms.
Whoever fills the vacancy could have a big say in whether the BOJ eases policy again amid doubts that a collapse in oil prices and declining real wages will make it difficult to meet its inflation target.
The nomination must be approved by parliament, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition holds a strong majority.
(This version of the story corrects fourth paragraph to say that it was opposition lawmakers, and not a ruling party member, who said the media reports were 'regrettable')
Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Richard Borsuk