(Bloomberg) — Voting to elect the leader of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is almost certain to go to a second round, with no candidate expected to reach the initial majority needed to avoid a runoff, national broadcaster NHK said.
The four lawmakers seeking to replace outgoing Yoshihide Suga as party leader, and thus premier, have two days to bolster their support ahead of Wednesday’s vote. If no one secures a majority in the first round, the two top finishers will face a runoff held on the same day.
The race among Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi, Taro Kono and Seiko Noda has been unpredictable, as many of the party’s powerful factions haven’t lined up behind one contender. While Kono is in the lead, Kishida has more backing among lawmakers, according to polling by NHK and other media. A runoff in the 2012 leadership race saw the most popular candidate — Shigeru Ishiba — lose out to Shinzo Abe.
Parliament is set to have a extraordinary session on Oct. 4 where the LDP will use its majority to elect its leader as the next prime minister. Suga has just returned from a summit in the U.S. and one of his final tasks will be to decide how far to lift virus restrictions at the end of this month, as Japan’s infection rates plummet.
Two days to the Sept. 29 vote: LDP voting among rank-and-file members ends Tuesday, and lawmakers vote in person Wednesday — with the two groups each having 382 votes. If a candidate does not win a majority of the 764 votes, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters, in which almost all the votes are allocated to lawmakers.
Fumio Kishida, former foreign minister and leader of a faction
Sanae Takaichi, former internal affairs minister trying to become the first female premier
Taro Kono, vaccine czar who has served as foreign and defense minister
Seiko Noda, another former internal affairs minister also trying to become the first female premier
Kono and Kishida are seen as the top two candidates followed by Takaichi and Noda. Although the public doesn’t get a say in the party’s election, voters will make their voices heard in a national election that must be held by the end of November.
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A poll from the Asahi newspaper published Sunday night found about 110 of the LDP’s 382 lawmakers said they would support Kishida, with 110 for Kono and 80 for Takaichi, while Noda lagged on 20. A separate poll by Kyodo News of party members and supporters conducted Sept. 25-26 found 47% favored Kono as leader, compared with 22% for Kishida, 16.2% for Takaichi and 3% for Noda.
Kishida has his own 46-member faction and can count on it voting as a bloc for him. The biggest faction, which includes former Prime Minister Abe, is allowing its nearly 100 members to vote for the candidate of their choice, while Abe has thrown his support behind Takaichi. Kono is a member of the Aso faction, which is set to offer major backing. The Ishiba faction, with 17 members, and the Ishihara faction with 10, are leaning to Kono.
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Polling Shows Premier Vote Set for Runoff: Japan Election
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