In an internal election, the DPJ selected former Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as party leader. A fiscal hawk, Noda won the election by a margin of 38 votes, 215 to 177, and was attested Prime Minister by the Emperor on September 2, 2011. Prime Minister Noda has focused on “ittai kaikaku,” or integrated reform that combines fiscal austerity with an increase in consumption tax.
On 29 August 2011 Japan’s parliament elected Yoshihiko Noda as the new prime minister. The fiscal conservative of the governing left-of-center party appeared to have little support among the public. The new prime minister’s inauguration was on 02 September 2011 in front of Emperor Akihito. That ceremony had been held frequently in recent years at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. None of Noda’s five predecessors has lasted longer than 15 months. Noda is known to Japanese as a persistent and tenacious politician as he had been making daily political speeches near a Tokyo subway station for 24 years until he was named the country's finance minister in 2010.
There was never any doubt about the outcome after the majority Democrats selected Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as their new party president. The announcement was made in Japan’s more powerful Lower House of Parliament. Noda became the nation’s 95th prime minister. He took over at one of the most troubling times for Japan since its defeat in World War II in 1945. By September 2010 Japan was looking at the possibility of having its sixth prime minister in three years. Naoto Kan, in office for just three months, was fighting a challenge from Ichiro Ozawa, a long-time powerbroker in the Democratic Party of Japan. The rivalry threatened to rip apart the party, but Ozawa was defeated in his bid for party leadership.
Former leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, Ozawa was indicted in January 2011 in connection with alleged irregularities in a political fund he controlled. The scandal has contributed to a collapse in public support for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose disapproval rating stands at 65 percent or higher in recent polls.
Besides a stagnant economy, still the world’s third largest, the country was struggling to recover from the 11 March 2011 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and destructive tsunami, which has left 20,000 people dead or missing in the northeast. The natural disaster also triggered the meltdown of reactors at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture.
In 2012 Prime Minister Noda proposed doubling the consumer sales tax to 10 percent by 2015. Noda said the plan is necessary to bring down the country's historic debt and pay for rising social security expenses. Ozawa had been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda — a member of the DPJ — and his controversial plan to double the sales tax to address a massive government debt. On 04 June 2012 Noda reshuffled his Cabine, replacing five ministers in an attempt to gain opposition support for his plan to double the sales tax. Noda replaced his ministers of defense, justice, agriculture, infrastructure and financial affairs in hopes of getting his tax changes through a divided parliament. All of the ministers had faced criticism in Japan's opposition-controlled upper house of parliament.
At a time when the country needed a decisive figure, Noda did not come across as a strong or bold leader. He was a compromise candidate. He did not have his own independent power base. And he was not a particularly strong communicator. He was not a populist at all. He was a typical throwback to the Japanese prime minister of yore, the faceless grey suits. Even in Japan his name recognition factor was quite low. Noda acknowledged low expectations for himself, predicting he will not have high public support. During the brief campaign for his party’s leadership Noda said he was no goldfish, but rather an unattractive loach, a bottom-feeding fish.
As of 2009 the DPJ had eight major groups and one quasi-group, with ideological orientations ranging from liberal to conservative. The majority, including the Hatoyama, Ozawa, Maehara, Noda, Kawabata, and Hata groups, are conservative. Former DPJ President and current Vice President Seiji. The DPJ, founded in 1998, is an amalgam of lawmakers who had migrated from other parties over the following ten years, supplemented by a relatively young cadre of members who entered national politics for the first time on the party's own ticket. The leadership, starting with the three top executives, Chief Representative Ichiro Ozawa, Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama, and President Naoto Kan, was drawn almost entirely from the first category. Those three, along with fellow transplants Seiji Maehara, Katsuya Okada, and Yoshihiko Noda, formed the axis for six of the eight main groups that comprise the DPJ. All but Noda had served as party leader at one time.
Maehara's "Ryoun Kai" (High Spirited Group) and former DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshihiko Noda's "Kasei Kai" (Group of a Hundred Blossoms) shared overlapping memberships and tend to act in concert. Maehara's group had 35 confirmed members while Noda's had 25 confirmed members. Both men graduated from the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a private graduate school dedicated to producing future politicians and business leaders. They shared similar conservative policy beliefs, for which they are criticized by DPJ liberals who call them "policy fundamentalists" and too conservative.
Maehara and Noda were anti-Ozawa and had strongly criticized his behind-closed-door, old-school LDP political style, which they believed ultimately could threaten the party's existence. The two groups, however, lacked unity and strong leadership, and therefore posed no real challenge to Ozawa. When the DPJ selected its leadership, the Maehara and Noda groups tried to offer Noda as a candidate against Ozawa-backed Hatoyama. However, the indecisiveness of Noda and his supporters - who feared for their political futures should Noda's attempt fail - combined with insufficient support from the Maehara group, doomed the attempt. This failure caused a frustrated Representative, Sumio Mabuchi, to leave the Noda group and question its existence. As the two groups ended up backing then Vice President Katsuya Okada, who also had distanced himself from Ozawa, they saw him as the successor of current party leader Hatoyama.
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