LDP race in Japan set to end as 3 prospects go their separate ways

TOKYO – The presidential race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is shaping up to be a three-way contest, according to a Nikkei / TV Tokyo poll, making it increasingly likely that the winner will be decided by a second round.

The two main candidates – former PLD policy chief Fumio Kishida and vaccination czar Taro Kono – have broad support from party lawmakers Sanae Takaichi, third, aggressively courting members to catch up their delay, according to the survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday.

Each legislator has one vote in the September 29 elections to choose the next party president, for a total of 382. Base members represent 382 additional votes. If no one wins an outright majority, the race will switch to a second round between the top two contenders.

Kishida led lawmakers’ support in the investigation, garnering nearly 30% support, or over 100 Diet members.

In addition to the 46 members of his own faction, Kishida gained support from other prominent blocs like the Hosoda, Aso and Tanigaki factions.

Kono, who is also minister responsible for administrative reform, was closely behind with more than 20% support from lawmakers. He was supported by half of the Aso faction, to which he belongs, as well as by the majority of the Ishiba faction and part of the Nikai faction. He was also popular among unaffiliated lawmakers.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, former PLD secretary general Shigeru Ishiba and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, all prominent figures not participating in the race, also support Kono.

Takaichi, former Minister of Interior and Communications, does not belong to any faction but is supported by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Half of the Hosoda faction, to which Abe belonged, rallied around her, as did unaffiliated Tory lawmakers. Overall, she had the support of over 20% of lawmakers.

From left to right: Minister of Administrative Reform Taro Kono, former political leader of the PLD Fumio Kishida and former Home Affairs Ministers Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

Seiko Noda, another former Home Affairs and Communications minister, struggled to gain traction beyond the 20 endorsements she received to launch her candidacy. She was the last to join the race, announcing her candidacy the day before the official campaign began.

Kono was popular among younger lawmakers, receiving support from Diet members from the first to sixth terms, while Kishida led the pack among the elders in their seventh term and beyond.

About 90 lawmakers were undecided or did not respond on Wednesday.

Given how tight the race looks, it’s unclear whether Kishida or Kono could win a majority even if one of them gets 80% of the backing from undecided lawmakers. Candidates need at least 55% of the rank and file votes to win.

In the event of a second round, the first two candidates will compete for a total of 429 votes: 382 from legislators and 47, or one per prefecture, from grassroots members of the party. This will give supporters fewer votes in a second round, although lawmakers can change their own votes depending on the outcome of the first round.

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