Japan is to have a new leader Friday, members of the governing party said one day after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned following a slide in his government’s approval ratings.
Mr. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) set Friday as the date it would make its choice for his successor, who would lead the party into July elections for the upper house of the Diet.
The Diet’s lower house would vote on the next premier the same day, party members told the media Thursday. The DPJ’s vote is tantamount to picking a prime minister because the party has a majority in the lower house.
The favourite in the race to replace Mr. Hatoyama is Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Naoto Kan. Mr. Kan, 63, a co-founder of the party who served as DPJ president when it was in the opposition, has announced his intention to run.
He came into politics from the civil liberties movement and made a name for himself in 1996 when, as health minister, he led a campaign to bring a scandal over HIV-tainted blood products to light.
Mr. Hatoyama, Japan’s fourth prime minister in four years, resigned on Wednesday after eight months in office. His government’s approval rating had fallen from 72 per cent when it took office to 19 per cent in a weekend opinion poll. The plunge followed a decision by Mr. Hatoyama’s government to retreat from a campaign promise and allow a new and highly unpopular U.S. military base to be located on Okinawa.
A growing number of DPJ members had called for Mr. Hatoyama to step aside. Some party leaders suggested that the DPJ would suffer a crushing defeat in next month’s elections if the situation went unchanged.