Naoto Kan Elected Japan Ruling Party Leader

Japan's ruling party picked former finance minister Naoto Kan, an outspoken politician with activist roots, as its new chief Friday, virtually assuring that he will become the country's next prime minister. Kan, 63, would succeed the unpopular Yukio Hatoyama, who stepped down two days earlier amid plunging approval ratings over broken campaign promises and a political funding scandal. Because the Democratic Party of Japan controls the more powerful lower house of parliament, Kan was virtually certain to be chosen as prime minister by lawmakers later in the day. Kan defeated little-known Shinji Tarutoko, chair of the lower house environmental committee, by a vote of 291-129, with two invalid ballots. Hatoyama's cabinet resigned en masse Friday morning, clearing the way for the vote to select the party's new chief. Kan told fellow party members ahead of the vote that they need to deal with "money politics" and come clean.