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Yoshihiko Noda wins Japan's ruling party presidential election

(Xinhua)

13:59, August 29, 2011

Japan's ruling Democratic Party holds an election in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 29, 2011. The Democratic Party started Monday an election of the party's president, who is expected to become the country's third prime minister in two years. Five candidates, namely Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda, Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano, and Former Transport Minister Sumio Mabuchi, vied for the top post to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan. (Xinhua/Kenichiro Seki)

TOKYO, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Finance minister Yoshihiko Noda is almost certain to become Japan's next prime minister after beating economy, trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda in a run-off to win the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) presidential election Monday.

Noda, 54, will become the third prime minister since Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power in a historic general election two years ago, as well as Japan's sixth premier in just five years.

Noda, a fiscal hawk, garnered 215 ballots out of the total of 392 valid votes, compared with 177 of Kaieda, who is backed by DPJ powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa who has the largest intraparty faction.

Kaieda led in the first-round voting. But neither of the two managed to win the majority in the first-round voting in a crowded election, which is also joined by former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Michihiko Kano, and former transport minister Sumio Mabuchi.

The election is boiled down to the fierce competition of supporters and enemies of Ozawa, dubbed as the "Shadow Shogun" who masterminded DPJ's victory to power. Ozawa himself was barred from voting as his membership was suspended following indictment earlier this year over a political fund scandal.

Maehara and Noda's camps joined forces in the second-round as they share similar power base in the party. Both are distant from Ozawa.

Noda, who has vowed to cut public debt through fiscal reforms, including a proposed increase in the 5 percent sales tax, is in favor of the DPJ forming a grand coalition with opposition parties

Noda has said that he supports reducing Japan's reliance on nuclear power but cannot envision a Japan entirely free of nuclear energy.

His foreign policy initiatives may be thwarted following controversial comments made about Japanese wartime leaders. This year on the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender he said that Japanese Class-A war criminals were in fact not war criminals.

Outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned as party chief Friday after seeing the passage in the Diet of two key bills -- one on the issuance of debt-covering bonds and one on the promotion of renewable energy. Kan is the longest-serving premier in five years.

Noda will have to cope with challenges including reviving a stagnant economy, rebuilding the disaster- devastated areas, ending the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in Fukushima, arresting a surging yen which threatens export, and seeking cooperation from opposition parties in a divided diet.

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