Japan’s Cabinet resigned en masse today to clear the way for a ruling party vote to select a successor to former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned two days earlier.

Members of the Democratic Party of Japan will meet later today morning to pick a new party chief, who will almost certainly be installed as prime minister because the ruling party controls a majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament.

Former Finance Minister Naoto Kan, a straight-talker with activist roots, is widely expected to succeed Mr. Hatoyama, who quit amid plunging approval ratings and public disappointment over his broken campaign promises.

The other candidate is little-known Shinji Tarutoko, chairman of the party’s environmental committee, who has the backing of some younger party members and the largest faction led by the party’s No 2, who also stepped down Wednesday.

Whoever wins the top job will face daunting choices in how to lead the world’s second-largest economy, which is burdened with massive public debt, a sluggish economy and an aging, shrinking population.

He also must quickly revive his party’s tarnished image before upper house elections are held next month. The vote is seen as a referendum on the Democrats’ short rule since they defeated the long-ruling conservatives in lower house elections last August, and the party’s prospects look rather bleak.

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