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Yoshihiko Noda
Article added on September 1, 2011
  
Today, Japan's parliament has elected Yoshihiko Noda (*1957) as the country's seventh prime minister in only six years. After Junichiro Koizumi from 2001 to 2006, Japan has seen six other prime ministers from 2006 to 2011: Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, Taro Aso, Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan and now Yoshihiko Noda.

Biography of Yoshihiko Noda

Yoshihiko Noda was born in Funabashi, Chiba, to the east of Tokyo, in 1957. Noda is a graduate of Tokyo's prestigious pro-free-market School of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University as well as the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management. Unlike most former prime ministers, Noda does not hail from a political dynasty. His father served in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, as the country's military is known. However, Noda is a longtime politician who was first elected to the assembly of Chiba Prefecture in 1987. Six years later, he served his first term in the national Diet for the now-defunct Japan New Party. As most politicians of that party, he later joined the Democratic Party (DPJ). After the DPJ won the
2009 election, Noda first served as Japan's vice finance minister before being promoted to the post of finance minister in June 2010, when his boss, finance minister Naoto Kan became prime minister.

The DPJ's newest man in power, Yoshihiko Noda, has been described as a calm and knowledgeable politician with experience, a fiscal hawk, a reformer and a member of the DPJ faction critical of the party's former secretary general Ichiro Ozawa, a master of dirty politics in the LDP-style; incidentally the “shadow shogun” Ozawa was once also secretary general of the LDP.


Noda is not untainted. He panders to the ultra-nationalists in Japan.
In 2005 and again on August 15, 2011 he stated that class-A war criminals convicted by the World War Two Allies and buried at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo had paid their debts and should no longer be considered war criminals, angering many in China and South Korea.

When Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced a new energy policy, breaking with Japan's long term strategy, Yoshihiko Noda was among the first to challenge the policy decision. In other matters, including the tackling of the public debt, Noda has been a strong ally of Kan and has vowed to continue his predecessor's fiscal conservative agenda.

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The DPJ in power

2009 brought the long needed change: the anomaly of the LDP one-party rule since 1955 - with only a ten-month break in 1993 - came to an end. Changes of parties in power are vital for any democracy. It is a pity that none of the Democratic Party prime ministers could deliver so far.

After not even 15 months with Prime Minister Naoto Kan in power, the Democratic Party was forced to elect Yoshihiko Noda as its third prime minister since its landslide win in the
2009 election. Naoto Kan was a victim of the government's poor handing of the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Yukio Hatoyama (*1947) only managed to stay in office from September 16, 2009 to June 8, 2010. Naoto Kan (*1946) followed him with little success until August 30. Will Yoshihiko Noda await a better destiny?

In the televised internal Democratic Party presidential election, Noda won the premiership in the second round of voting by the 398 DPJ members of parliament. In the first round, Trade Minister Banri Kaieda came in first with 143 votes, ahead of Yoshihiko Noda with 102 votes, former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara with 74 votes, former Agricultural Minister Michihiko Kano with 52 votes and former Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Sumio Mabuchi with 24 votes. In the runoff vote, Yoshihiko Noda defeated Banri Kaieda - favored by Ichiro Ozawa - with 215 to 177 votes.

Because the DPJ holds the absolute majority in the Diet, its candidate was sure to become Japan's next prime minister.

Japan's financial and economic problems

The Japanese problem is deep rooted. Its public debt amounts to over 200% of GDP. The Japanese budget deficit may reach 8% to 10% of GDP in 2011. Furthermore, the country of the rising sun is in a recession: its economy has been shrinking in the past three quarters. In addition, the successful export industry is suffering from the strong yen.

The Japanese hold some 94% of their countries public debt. Therefore, the yield on government debt has been between 1% and 2%. The day borrowers get worried about Japan's ability to pay back the debt, the interest rate will skyrocket. Such a shift could bankrupt the country and wipe out an important part of Japanese savings.


In order to assure his fellow Japanese as well as the rest of the world of his country's stability, Yoshihiko Noda said on August 29 that he will not call a snap allocation because that could create a political vacuum. The other half of the truth is that the party is highly unpopular and would risk to lose its grip on power. Already now, the opposition controls the upper house of parliament. Divided power makes it difficult for the DJP to rule. Furthermore, the party itself is divided, with the Ozawa faction still strong.


Yoshihiko Noda has already announced that he will hold talks with the opposition parties regarding his plan to double the nation's consumption tax in stages in the next years from 5% to 10%. In addition, there is the problem of Japanese deflation, the strong Yen and the aftermath of the tsunami and the following nuclear disaster to tackle. The government estimates the recovery cost for the March tsunami and nuclear disaster to reach $169 billion over the next five years.

It remains to be seen whether
Yoshihiko Noda will really turn out to be a fiscal hawk. So far, it does not look as if his government would tackle the problem of the gigantic public debt with a long term plan. More debt and additional taxes may push Japan even closer to the abyss.







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