Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party chooses its next leader on Wednesday. The winner is virtually set to become Prime Minister. The race appears tight.
Four veteran lawmakers are running: Regulatory Reform Minister Kono Taro, Former LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Kishida Fumio, Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Takaichi Sanae, and LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Noda Seiko.
Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is not running. He said he needs to focus on the coronavirus pandemic --- which has put much of Japan under a months-long state of emergency.
Each candidate is promising to get the medical system and economy back in shape.
Kono touted his vaccination plan, while Kishida proposed setting up temporary hospitals.
Takaichi emphasized the need of local production of medicines. Noda pushed for a better access to treatment.
Each sitting LDP Diet member gets a vote.
The ballots cast by the party's rank-and-file will be given equal weight.
NHK 's survey suggests no candidate will secure more than 50 percent of valid votes --- which would force a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
Voting by lawmakers will start at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.