Japan selects former finance minister as new Prime Minister.

Yoshihiko Noda will be the 6th Prime Minister of Japan elected in the past five years. He comes as Naoto Kan’s replacement, fulfilling Kan’s promise to step down as soon as the tsunami and its attendant crises had been sufficiently allayed. Like Kan, Yoshihiko Noda is from the Democratic Party of Japan, the first political party to break the Liberal Democratic Party’s stranglehold on Japanese electoral politics since the end of World War II. Noda will undergo the imperial endorsement ceremony tomorrow, after which he will begin the arduous task of rebuilding Japan as well as coordinating economic progress with Japan’s ally, the United States. Keith Henry, from Asia Strategy, a government consulting firm in Tokyo, calls Japanese politicians ‘spineless’ and advocates for a new political culture lest Japan find itself in dire straits due to inaction on behalf of its leaders. Japan’s heavy domestic debt load, coupled with political paralysis, recently led to Moody’s downgrading Japanese debt, estimated at 200% of Japan’s GDP, to Aa3 from Aa2. Unlike US debt, much of Japan’s sovereign debt is held by the Japanese citizenry who are among the world’s biggest savers. Japanese peoples unwillingness to spend their saved money, with deflation a fact of life and expected to continue into the future with a decline in population size, the reconstruction of the tsunami struck zones of Japan could provide the stimulus needed to jumpstart the moribund economy. An excellent Economist piece of this can be found here. Japan’s revolving door style of Prime Ministers has roots in Japanese culture, which sees problems and the worsening of conditions stemming from inadequate leadership; thus, when goals are not achieved, a sacrificial offering is made if you will. Naoto Kan was yet another in this long line. Here’s hoping Prime Minister Noda has better success than he did. Given the Democratic Party of Japan’s historic mandate in overcoming the Liberal Democratic Party, it would be sad and a greatly missed opportunity if it becomes business as usual and more of the same with regards to Japanese politics.