Yoshihiko Noda became Japan's 95th prime minister on Aug. 30, taking the reins of a nation facing an intimidating combination of challenges, including rebuilding following the March 11 earthquake, a nuclear disaster, huge government debts, and a soaring currency that is crippling its industry.
He takes office knowing he is the country's sixth prime minister in five years, that he has no majority in the Upper House and that his own Democratic Party of Japan is deeply split.
In an attempt to seek unity, Noda appointed Azuma Koshiishi, DPJ chairman of the Upper House caucus and a senior politician close to DPJ power broker Ichiro Ozawa, as secretary-general of the party.
Noda picked former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as chairman of the DPJ's Policy Research Committee.
Hirofumi Hirano, who was chief Cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, was appointed chairman of the party's Diet Affairs Committee.
Shinji Tarutoko was tapped for the post of deputy secretary-general.
In the Lower House, Noda received a clear majority of 308 votes in the election for prime minister on Aug. 30, after winning the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election the previous day. However, he was forced into a runoff with Sadakazu Tanigaki, the head of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, in the Upper House, eventually prevailing with 110 votes, only three more than his rival.
Noda met with Shizuka Kamei, the head of the People's New Party, and the two confirmed the continuation of their parties' coalition.
One of Noda's key appointment decisions had been the DPJ's secretary-generalship, the second highest post in his party. The secretary-general is in charge of party funds and personnel decisions.
Ozawa had made the appointment of someone close to him as secretary-general a condition for his party group's support in the Aug. 29 DPJ presidential election, but backed Banri Kaieda, the economy minister, who lost the DPJ presidential vote to Noda in a runoff.
After the DPJ election, Noda said he would focus on increasing party unity. His choice of secretary-general was seen as a key indication of the lengths he is prepared to go in that direction. If Ozawa's supporters are not satisfied by his concessions, they could prove a major thorn in his side, destroying party policy cohesion and hindering Diet deliberations.
After the DPJ executives are selected, Noda will begin filling his Cabinet as early as Aug. 31. The process could continue as late as Sept. 2.
Noda did indicate that he would reverse one of his predecessor Naoto Kan's personnel decisions. Under Kan, Koichiro Genba served concurrently as DPJ policy chief and state minister in charge of national policy.
But Noda said: "The policy chief should not hold a Cabinet post. It is better to separate the two."
He added that he was also considering giving the DPJ Policy Research Committee greater authority to make policy decisions rather than just be a forum for discussions.
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