In the race to choose the next leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, vaccine czar Taro Kono and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida are within touching distance of each other when it comes to the number of endorsements they have earned from lawmakers, according to media reports.

But with less than a week until voting day, former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi has been rapidly expanding her support among LDP lawmakers and rank-and-file members. Although her appeal was initially believed to be limited to lawmakers who belong to the more conservative and hawkish wing of the party, some junior Lower House members are also throwing their weight behind Takaichi.

Her rapid ascendance from a minor candidate to a viable contender — something that even some of her supporters had not anticipated — has shaken up the race to effectively choose the nation’s 100th prime minister, with no clear front-runner emerging.