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Former Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Fumio Kishida appears to be moving ahead of his three rivals when it comes to earning support from LDP lawmakers, according to a survey released Saturday.

Regulatory reform minister Taro Kono, 58, trailed Kishida, 64, in the survey, followed closely by former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, 60.

Meanwhile, LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda, 61, has failed to attract broader support, according to the survey by Jiji Press, conducted chiefly through direct interviews with LDP lawmakers.

LDP lawmakers, rank-and-file party members and supporters will participate in the first round of voting in the LDP presidential election Wednesday. None of the four candidates is expected to win a majority in the race, meaning the vote is likely headed for a runoff between the top two contenders.

With around 15% of party lawmakers yet to decide who to vote for, the election to choose the successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is still in flux.

Of the 382 lawmaker votes, Kishida has secured support from his 46-member faction.

He has also gained backing chiefly from senior members of the biggest intraparty faction, led by former LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, which boasts 96 members. Kishida has also won favor among senior lawmakers in the 53-member faction headed by Finance Minister Taro Aso and the 51-member faction previously led by party heavyweight Wataru Takeshita, who died earlier this month.

Additionally, Kishida has drawn support from members of these factions who hold seats in the Upper House.

From left: Taro Kono, Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda take part in an online meeting with citizens at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on Saturday. | KYODO
From left: Taro Kono, Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda take part in an online meeting with citizens at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on Saturday. | KYODO

The proportion of LDP lawmakers who favor Kishida has topped 30%, according to the survey, up from around 25% a week earlier.

Kono, who was neck and neck with Kishida a week ago, is facing an uphill battle to win more support, with the share of LDP lawmakers backing him standing below 30%.

Some people believe that Kono has drawn criticism over recent remarks that some said downplayed the LDP’s role in the process of making policy decisions.

The proportion of LDP lawmakers supporting Takaichi stands at slightly over 20%.

Takaichi has secured support from more than 50% of the members of the Hosoda faction, a group that is heavily influenced by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who endorsed her in the race.

Takaichi is also attracting support from more members of the Aso faction, the former Takeshita faction and the 47-member faction led by LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.

Noda is struggling to win wider support after she managed to secure recommendations from 20 LDP lawmakers, the minimum needed to run in the leadership race.

Among the 382 votes allocated to rank-and-file party members and supporters, Kono is ahead, followed by Kishida and Takaichi, according to interviews with officials of the candidates’ camps and local chapters of the LDP.

The LDP presidential election is expected to head into a runoff between either Kono and Kishida or between Kono and Takaichi. In the runoff, lawmaker votes hold more weight.

In the late stages of campaigning, the four campaign teams and the factions are expected to step up their maneuvering in order to secure alliances in the runoff, pundits said.

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