Polling shows vote for Japan prime minister set for runoff

The race among (from left) Taro Kono, Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi, and Seiko Noda has been unpredictable. - AP

TOKYO (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 (Sept 29) 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.

The candidates:

> 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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Japan , LDP , elections , prime minister


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