Japan PM on way out, leadership race wide open

August 23, 2011 06:52

TOKYO - Unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan will likely resign on Aug. 30, his economics minister said on Tuesday, but who will succeed him as Japan confronts a nuclear crisis and a long list of economic difficulties remained up in the air.

The race to become Japan's sixth leader in five years was blown wide open on Monday when former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, 49, decided to run.

That cut sharply into the chances of Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, a fiscal conservative. The support base for the two men overlaps in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) -- and whoever is elected next week as leader of the party with control of the lower house will become prime minister.

Japan's new leader will have to grapple with a soaring yen that threatens exports, step up efforts to rebuild from the March earthquake and tsunami and end a radiation crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant -- all while trying to curb public debt and cure the ills of a fast-ageing society.

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