With financial markets in a state of tumult, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided Tuesday to postpone the anticipated announcement of his candidacy to succeed Prime Minister Naoto Kan as president of the Democratic Party of Japan.
“It is a very critical time right now and the only thing for me to do is to fulfill my duties,” he said. He denied he intends to resign immediately after a key bill that allows the government to issue deficit-covering bonds clears the Diet.
The finance minister was expected to announce his candidacy for DPJ president at a meeting of party allies Tuesday, but changed his mind after the Nikkei stock average opened sharply lower. Critics are likely to slam the reversal as adding to the confusion caused by the global market meltdown.
Noda’s decision came a day after it was reported he was laying out his policy pledges in an article in the next issue of Bungei Shunju, a monthly magazine, to be published on Wednesday. Noda, however, denied he is unveiling a manifesto.
The crucial issue in the DPJ presidential race is likely to be tax hikes.
While Noda will probably argue raising taxes is necessary to restore financial health, former transport minister Sumio Mabuchi, another possible candidate, is strongly opposed.
Mabuchi also contributed an article to Bungei Shunju, hinting at his intention to run for the presidency. Once a member of a group headed by Noda, he left after failing to persuade an unwilling Noda to run for party president in 2008.
In addition to Noda and Mabuchi, Sakihito Ozawa, a former environment minister, is likely to bid to replace Kan.
Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stressed Tuesday that Noda has not yet officially announced his candidacy.
“It is just some of the media writing about it but I am not aware that Noda said anything regarding” running in the presidential election, Edano told a news conference.
While the date of his departure remains unspecified, Kan said during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Monday that his plan to hand responsibility over to the younger generations after three key bills are passed at the Diet hasn’t changed.