Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has told his Cabinet members to be ready to hand in their resignations on Tuesday next week.
Officials said Mr. Kan delivered the statement at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, confirming his intention to resign in time for his ruling Democratic Party of Japan to select a new leader Monday. The DPJ-dominated lower house of parliament would then elect the new leader as prime minister the next day.
Mr. Kan said he will resign only if parliament passes a renewable energy bill as expected on Friday. His planned departure sets up a contest between several leading party figures to become Japan's sixth prime minister in five years.
The latest entry into the race is former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who is considered the most popular of the candidates among the general public. Maehara indicated his intentions Monday, dimming the chances of the previous front-runner, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano and Minister of Economy and Trade Banri Kaieda also are reported to be seeking the post.
Mr. Kan has been under pressure to resign because of widespread dissatisfaction with his government's handling of the response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. A new poll released Sunday by the Kyodo news agency found his government's approval rating has fallen below 16 percent.