Yoshihiko Noda set to remain party leader and prime minister
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda yesterday declared his candidacy for re-election as party leader, with the way to victory apparently clear after his main potential rival stepped aside.
Noda looked set to be the sole candidate for president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), a post that comes with the prime ministerial portfolio by dint of its being the largest party.
His telegenic environment minister, Goshi Hosono, 41, had been mulling a crack at the job, which would have made him Japan's youngest ever prime minister, and the seventh man in the role in six years, but ruled himself out. Hosono had increasingly appeared to be a good bet for the flailing DPJ, which looks set to take a beating in the next general election, expected in the autumn.
Noda's copybook has been blotted by his pushing through a politically toxic but economically necessary doubling of sales tax. Many in the party fear an election under him is unwinnable.
Noda said he was putting his name forward for the top party post because "I cannot leave major issues of national politics half-finished. I want to carry on my duty to wrestle with Japan's issues and overcome them." Nominations for the leadership close on Monday.
At least one member is still considering a bid, but Noda is expected to be unopposed.
The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is just ahead of the DPJ in opinion polls, although neither party enjoys overwhelming voter confidence.