Monday, August 29, 2011

Yoshihiko Noda, Japan's newest leader, says he has just the style to handle a mess (Where mess equals nuclear, quake, tsunami, financial and societal)

Yoshihiko Noda, whose election Monday to lead Japan’s ruling party means he will become prime minister, campaigned for the job by comparing himself to the loach, an unattractive, bottom-feeding fish.

“My looks are not great,” Noda said, noting that few fall in love with a loach-faced leader. “If elected, I wouldn’t have a great support rate.”

But the pairing of a ruddy prime minister and Japan’s unbecoming political mess now seems fitting.

Noda, a fiscal hawk, called on Japan to take the uncomfortable but necessary steps that political infighting and meek leadership have long prevented. For Noda, 54, that means raising the consumption tax, reforming antiquated industries, and possibly joining with a rival party in a grand coalition.

Japan’s recent history of revolving-door leadership has led to a national skepticism that any of this can be done; none of Noda’s five predecessors lasted longer than 15 months in office. And none managed to shape policies to help Japan as its population ages, social security spending soars and the economy slides.

“But a loach has its own qualities,” Noda said. more