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Japan Democrats pick heavyweight Kan as next PM

(For more on Japanese politics click [ID:NPOLJP], for stories on the economy click [ID:nECONJP])

TOKYO, June 4 (Reuters) - Japan’s ruling Democratic Party picked former finance minister Naoto Kan, a fiscal conservative once best known for battling bureaucrats, as the country’s next prime minister ahead of an upper house election expected next month.

Kan, 63, would become Japan’s fifth prime minister in three years, taking the helm as the country struggles to rein in a huge public debt, engineer growth in an ageing society, and manage ties with security ally Washington and a rising China.

The party, which swept to power in a historic election last year but saw its ratings slide on doubts over outgoing premier Yukio Hatoyama’s leadership during his brief eight months in office, needs to win the upper house election to ensure laws are passed smoothly. (Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Hugh Lawson)