Just as the Democratic Party in the United States is wrestling with the possibility of going into a crucial election with a deeply flawed candidate, panic is setting in among Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party over the unpopular Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

In a year where overconfident incumbents are getting their comeuppance the world over, decision time is looming in Tokyo, too.

Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga fired the starting gun of the race to replace Kishida last month when he blasted the party leader in a scathing interview. "Recently, I hear cries of anguish within the LDP saying that if things continue as they are, there will be a change of government,” Suga told Bungei Shunju magazine. He directly criticized the sitting prime minister’s failure to take responsibility for a recent funding scandal and called for the LDP to renew itself to restore public trust.