The Democratic Party of Japan picked former trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda as its leader following a Dec. 16 election rout that saw the group lose three quarters of its seats in the lower house.
Kaieda, 63, defeated former transport minister Sumio Mabuchi today to take the post vacated by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Kaieda helped oversee Japan’s response to last year’s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant.
Kaieda faces the task of trying to revive support for the DPJ before July elections in the upper house, where the party holds 87 of 242 seats. The DPJ’s lawmakers in the more powerful lower house, which choses the prime minister, fell to 57 from 230 after the Dec. 16 national vote.
The DPJ swept to power for the first time just over three years ago with vows to wrest control of the country from bureaucrats, cut waste and devote more resources to social welfare. Instead, its approval rating slumped as it struggled to revive the economy after last year’s earthquake and atomic disaster and backed down on a pledge to move a U.S. military base off the southern island prefecture of Okinawa.
Incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this month’s landslide victory reflected deep dissatisfaction with the Democrats, rather than faith in his own Liberal Democratic Party.