Report: Ruling party to replace Japanese PM by end of month

TOKYO - Japan's ruling Democratic Party aims to hold a leadership contest to replace unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan as early as Aug. 28, Japanese media reported on Wednesday, setting the stage for the country's sixth premier since 2006.
Kan, who took office in June 2010, is under fire for his handling of the country's nuclear crisis, and naming the date may be a sign that the party is putting more pressure on him to go.
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who favors paying for bulging social security costs by raising the 5 percent sales tax, and like Kan sees reining in ballooning public debt as policy priority, is mooted as a leading contender.
With voter ratings well below 20 percent, Kan has said he will hand over the reins to his Democratic Party's younger generation. But he has not specified when, frustrating many in his party who hope changing leaders will help shore up the party's sagging popularity ratings.
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