Japan's ruling LDP starts leadership election to pick Abe's successor

2020-09-14 06:06:17 GMT2020-09-14 14:06:17(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

TOKYO, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Monday started a presidential election to pick Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's successor.

At a joint plenary meeting which started from 2 p.m. local time (0500 GMT), LDP party members from both houses of Japan's bicameral parliament and delegates from local chapters are voting to elect the party's new leader. The results are expected to be announced at around 3:30 p.m. local time (0630 GMT).

The race is between Yoshihide Suga, 71, Japan's top government spokesperson and Chief Cabinet Secretary, Shigeru Ishiba, 63, a former defense minister, and Fumio Kishida, 63, the LDP's policy chief.

The winner of the election is virtually assured of becoming the next prime minister owing to LDP's dominance in parliament. The new prime minister will be named at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Wednesday.

Suga, having garnered the support of five of the seven major LDP factions, has a comfortable lead on the other two contenders.

Under normal circumstances, the top leader of the LDP would be chosen with Diet members belonging to the party and rank-and-file members holding 394 votes each.

However, due to Abe's resignation in the middle of his term and the COVID-19 outbreak, the LDP decided to hold an abridged version of presidential election to simplify the process and to avoid a political vacuum.

In the scaled-down vote, 394 Diet members will cast ballots and a total of 141 votes will be cast by three delegates each from the country's 47 prefectural chapters.