Japan's parliament elects new prime minister

Yoshihiko Noda, the sixth PM in five years, set to grapple with tsunami damage, nuclear disaster and flagging economy.

    Noda, the country's sixth prime minister in five years, will have to contend with a number of issues [GALLO/GETTY]

    Japan's parliament has elected Yoshihiko Noda, a former finance minister, as the country's sixth prime minister in five years.

    Noda, 54, assumed the position on Tuesday, a day after being chosen to head the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

    "He's a compromise choice... He was baiscally the only candidate that the different factions in the Democratic Party could agree on," Peter Beck of Keio University told Al Jazeera.

    He takes the place of the increasingly unpopular leader Naoto Kan, who, along with his cabinet, officially resigned on Tuesday after nearly 15 months in office.

    Al Jazeera's Steve Chao explores Yoshihiko Noda's positions and expectations for change as Japan's PM

    A fiscal conservative, Noda faces a host of daunting problems, including the post-tsunami recovery and nuclear crisis, a sluggish economy and a surge in the yen, which has upset Japan's exporters.

    "Up until now he has been a virtual unknown," said Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reporting from Tokyo.

    "In terms of a new energy policy, he is a firm supporter of nuclear energy, with the idea of slowly drawing down reliance over the next 30 years."

    Noda will also need to try to unify the fractious ruling party and restore public confidence in politics amid widespread anger over squabbling in parliament and a perceived lack of leadership in the wake of the triple disaster.

    Yasukuni controversy

    A staunch supporter of the country's security alliance with the US, Noda has angered China and South Korea over comments about convicted wartime leaders revered at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the souls of Japan's war dead are enshrined.

    Earlier this month, he reiterated his claim that the wartime leaders had paid their debts and should no longer be seen as war criminals. He made similar comments in 2005.

    Visits to Yasukuni by postwar politicians have often enraged Japan's neighbours, who experienced the country's colonial aggression and are sensitive to any efforts by Tokyo to whitewash its past.

    As finance minister, Noda has been battling the yen's recent rise to record highs against the dollar. Earlier this month, he authorised Japan's intervention in global currency markets to try to weaken the yen.

    Noda has also said he plans to tackle Japan's huge debt - one of the largest of any country in the world.

    He has voiced support in the past for raising the country's five per cent sales tax, but has recently toned down that call.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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