With the Liberal Democratic Party's leadership campaign officially starting Friday, the race is turning out to be more than just an election to choose the country’s next leader — it's become a contest that could shift power dynamics within the ruling party and shape the LDP for years to come.

Unlike past party votes, it's also anyone's guess as to who will win, and the picture grew murkier Thursday as former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda announced a last-minute bid of her own.

Traditionally, LDP faction leaders get their followers to agree to endorse a specific candidate, leaving little doubt over the result ahead of the election. This year, however, all but one of the intraparty groups will allow their members to vote for any candidate, in an effort to avoid lawmakers quitting if they don't get to pick their preferred candidate.