Party works to select Hatoyama successor

June 3, 2010 at 11:04 AM
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TOKYO, June 3 (UPI) -- Japanese Finance Minister Naoto Kan emerged Thursday as the leading candidate to succeed Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister, political observers said.

Lawmakers in the governing Democratic Party backed Kan, who earned his chops by battling Japan's bureaucrats, The New York Times reported Thursday. The party is expected to conduct an internal vote Friday and Kan is expected to face no serious opposition, party officials said.

Hatoyama resigned suddenly Wednesday over broken campaign promises. His party is working quickly to find a replacement and re-earn public trust, observers said.

Kan, 63, gained national attention in the mid-1990s when as health minister he exposed the use of blood tainted with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In the Hatoyama administration, he served dual roles of deputy prime minister and finance minister, taking the point in the party's push to end the decades-long secrecy of the country's central ministries.

The only other candidate emerging from Thursday's meeting was Shinji Tarutoko, a legislator who heads the environmental policy committee in Japan's lower house.

The eventual nominee will face a parliamentary vote for prime minister. The new prime minister then must be formally appointed by Emperor Akihito.

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