Japan ruling party set to re-elect PM Noda as leader
TOKYO – (VNS)Japan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will vote in a leadership election Friday afternoon with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda widely expected to remain in his post.
DPJ lawmakers are scheduled to cast ballots at 2:00 pm (0500 GMT) with three candidates challenging Noda's reelection as party president, which currently comes with the post of premier.
Election results, which will also include votes by DPJ local assembly members and individual party members across the nation, are expected to be announced later in the day.
Noda is widely expected to win outright in the first round of voting, having secured support from more than 60 per cent of party lawmakers, the Asahi Shimbun said, citing the results of a survey it had carried out.
Lawmakers' votes are more heavily weighted than those of other party members. Under party rules, there must be an election every two years for the job, and if no candidate receives a majority in the first round, the top two contenders advance to a runoff.
Noda looked to have cemented the job after his telegenic environment minister Goshi Hosono decided against taking a tilt at leadership. If he had won, the 41-year-old would have been Japan's youngest ever prime minister.
As prime minister and leader of the DPJ – currently the biggest party in parliament – Noda has pushed through unpopular legislation on doubling sales tax.
This, alongside general disenchantment with his once-popular party, has left many lawmakers fearing for their jobs in the general election expected this autumn.
However, a dearth of credible alternatives left the contest looking like something of a formality for the premier.
Noda faces challenges from three of his backbenchers: former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and former agriculture ministers Hirotaka Akamatsu and Michihiko Kano.
On the eve of the election, Noda renewed his pledge to bolster the world's third largest economy, telling business leaders in Tokyo: "Our government is determined to take economic measures seamlessly."
The DPJ came to power in 2009 after five decades of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, but its once-radical agenda was largely jettisoned. AFP