TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced his resignation Friday, ending a 15-month tenure defined by crisis and opening the door for this country’s seventh leader since 2006.
Kan’s decision to step down, the fulfillment of a pledge he made in early June, marked the inevitable endpoint for a leader who had failed to galvanize a stricken nation. His departure further extends Japan’s search for a prime minister capable of tackling, rather than getting tackled by, its many fundamental problems.
Kan’s successor, to be determined in a ruling party election Monday, will inherit both Japan’s slow-burning economic woes and the urgent reconstruction challenges brought on by the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster.
In the aftermath of Japan’s greatest crisis since World War II, critics accused Kan of inability to lead a coherent government response. But even with the unpopular Kan out of the way, Japan still has a divided parliament, a shrinking population, a soaring debt, a strong yen and potential energy shortages that could force corporations overseas.