TOKYO – Japan’s parliament elected former Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as the new prime minister today – the country’s sixth leader in five years.
A fiscal conservative, Noda faces a host of daunting problems, including the post-tsunami recovery and nuclear crisis, and a sluggish economy, and the yen’s surge, which hurts Japan’s exporters.
Noda, who was elected Monday to head the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, succeeds the unpopular Naoto Kan, who officially resigned today with his Cabinet after nearly 15 months in office.
Noda, 54, must seek to unify the fractious ruling party and restore public confidence in politics amid widespread disgust over squabbling in parliament and perceived lack of leadership in the wake of the triple disaster.
He is a “moderate voice” in the ruling party, Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, wrote in a comment. “He has a steady temperament and a reputation for fairness in a party where loyalties have been severely tested of late.”
Given the pressing problems at home, Noda will likely focus on the disaster reconstruction and other domestic matters.
As finance minister, Noda has been battling the yen’s recent rise to record highs against the dollar. Earlier this month, he authorized Japan’s intervention in global currency markets to try to weaken the yen.
Noda has also said Japan must rein in its huge deficit – twice the country’s gross domestic product.