Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda handily beat three other contenders in a ruling party leadership election on Friday and will remain Japan’s leader a while longer.
Noda, in office a year, won 818 points out of a total of 1,231 points in the vote, suggesting the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has rallied around him even as his approval rating has fallen below 30 per cent.
Noda had said he plans to call a national election “before long,” but has given no timeframe. Lately, he has suggested he intends to stay on in office to try to finish tasks he set out to accomplish, including helping Japan deal with the impact of last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis.
Voters appear to be disappointed in the DPJ’s inability to deliver promised change to Japan’s stodgy politics and are upset with Noda’s push to double the sales tax to 10 per cent, a step Noda argues is needed to meet increasing social security costs as Japan’s population ages and its national debt grows.
Polls suggest the DPJ would be badly defeated if elections were held now, and many analysts see the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party winning the most seats in the more powerful lower house, although falling short of a majority. Elections must be called by next September.
Noda played up his resolve to make tough decisions in a speech before Friday’s vote, promising to “sweat with all of you to make a vigorous Japan together.”
“The real reform Japan needs is decisive politics when we face issues that need to be decided,” Noda told party members gathered in a Tokyo hotel. Votes were case by parliamentary party members and rank-and-file party members around the country.
In addition to issues at home, Noda’s government has been pressured lately by a territorial dispute with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Vying against Noda in the DPJ president’s race were two former farm ministers, Michihiko Kano and Hirotaka Akamatsu, and a former internal affairs minister, Kazuhiro Haraguchi.