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Japanese prime minister resigns amid low ratings

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan bows during a press conference, Aug. 26, 2011. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Koji Sasahara.

Japan’s prime minister says he is resigning, amid plunging approval ratings over his government’s handling of the tsunami and nuclear power plant crisis.

A ruling party vote on Monday will pick a new leader to replace Naoto Kan, who has been in office for only about 15 months.

In a televised speech, Kan said Friday he will step down after Monday’s vote.

The new leader will be the country’s sixth prime minister in only five years.

Japan has been plagued by high turnover in political leadership at a time when the country faces huge problems, including an aging population, bulging debt and stagnant economy – and now reconstruction from the worst disaster to hit the country since the Second World War

Contenders for the job include: former foreign minister Seiji Maehara, a 49-year-old expert in defense, finance minister Yoshihiko Noda and trade minister Banri Kaieda.

With files from The Associated Press