Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sought to revive support for Japan’s ruling party with a Cabinet reshuffle as he trails the opposition ahead of a national election that could come by the end of the year.
Noda will unveil the changes later today in Tokyo after the Cabinet resigned this morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said. The move follows a change last week at the top of the Liberal Democratic Party, with surveys showing new leader Shinzo Abe polling ahead of Noda in popular preference for premier.
The new team’s immediate challenge is to secure enough parliamentary support to enact a deficit-financing bill needed to the keep the government from running out of funds as soon as the end of next month. Koriki Jojima, 65, will become Japan’s fifth finance minister in three years, Kyodo News reported, leading the effort on fiscal legislation while also overseeing currency policy.
Noda may also appoint a proponent of improving ties with China amid heightened tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies. Makiko Tanaka, the daughter of the premier who normalized relations with China 40 years ago, will be in the new cabinet, Kyodo said, without saying where it got the information.
Jojima is a graduate of the University of Tokyo and a former head of the worker’s union at Japanese food company Ajinomoto Co. He was first elected to parliament in 1996 and is a founding member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. While he has served as the party’s deputy policy chief, this would be his first cabinet post. Jun Azumi is stepping down as finance chief to become the DPJ’s acting secretary-general.
As head of currency policy, the new finance minister’s challenges include a yen hovering within three percent of its postwar high, hurting exporters such as Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) as Japan’s economic recovery stalls. Azumi oversaw the sale of a record 8 trillion yen ($103 billion) in market intervention last October after the currency hit a postwar high of 75.35 yen per dollar. The yen was at 77.93 at 11:53 a.m. in Tokyo today.
Tanaka, 68, is the daughter of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who established diplomatic ties with China in 1972. Japan and China are mired in a territorial row over islands in the East China Sea claimed by both that has sent relations to their lowest level since at least 2005.
Tanaka, a former LDP lawmaker who served as foreign minister a decade ago, was among the members of the Japan-China Friendship Association who last week visited Beijing and held talks with Politburo member Jia Qinglin.
Public support for the LDP has risen since Abe, a former prime minister, was elected its head last week. In a Nikkei newspaper poll published Sept. 28, 37 percent of respondents said they support the LDP, up 12 percentage points from August. Support for Noda’s DPJ fell two percentage points to 19 percent. Asked who they favored as the next prime minister, 41 percent of respondents picked Abe, while 28 percent picked Noda.
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