Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda looked very likely yesterday to hang on to one of the worst jobs around — leading the demoralized ruling party to almost certain crushing election defeat.
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) election commission confirmed yesterday that besides Noda, there would be three fringe contenders running in the Sept. 21 leadership contest — former Japanese agriculture ministers Hirotaka Akamatsu and Michihiko Kano and former Japanese internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi
With no party heavyweights on the roster, Noda is likely to retain his post as government and party chief.
In his election pledge, Noda said he would bring a lasting end to deflation that has plagued Japan for a decade and hit a 1 percent inflation target within a year. The Democrats’ third prime minister in as many years also promised to work toward ending reliance on nuclear power, though he gave no deadline.
“I cannot abandon the government halfway through. With that in mind, I’ve decided to run in the leadership race,” he told a joint news conference with the other candidates.
However, Noda’s days in power appear numbered, with opinion polls showing the Democrats trailing the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and a new grouping led by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto that plans to contest the next general election expected before the end of the year.
“It looks certain that Noda will win,” SMBC Nikko Securities chief strategist Hidenori Suezawa said.
“But financial markets are focusing on the main opposition’s leadership race later this month and Hashimoto’s ‘Ishin no Kai’ party, as they will play a key role in a political reshuffle after general elections, not the Democrats,” Suezawa said.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said yesterday he would not seek re-election. The party’s former defense and foreign ministers are in contention, with media reporting that the party’s current No.2 Nobuteru Ishihara and former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will also join the race slated for Sept. 26.
MINISTER FOUND DEAD
Meanwhile, Japan’s financial services minister was found dead at his home yesterday in what police say was a possible suicide, media said. Japanese Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Tadahiro Matsushita, 73, who was also in charge of postal reform for Noda, was found collapsed at his house in Tokyo and confirmed dead at hospital shortly afterward, public broadcaster NHK said.
Kyodo News reported he was thought to have taken his own life.