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What Investors Should Look for in Vote for Japan’s Next Prime Minister

·3 min read
What Investors Should Look for in Vote for Japan’s Next Prime Minister

(Bloomberg) -- Japan famously does much of its political wrangling behind closed doors, often making leadership contests drab affairs. Wednesday’s vote to choose the next head of the Liberal Democratic Party, who is set to become prime minister, is shaping up as a rare exception.

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Traders will need to stay glued to the race throughout the day as party members select one of four candidates who are in the running to replace Yoshihide Suga in an unusually open election.

Here’s what to look out for:

The Timeline

Unlike 2020’s truncated vote that saw Suga fill the gap left by Shinzo Abe stepping down, more than 1 million rank-and-file members of the LDP will join lawmakers in this election.

Each group has 382 votes, though that number can change if there are abstentions. The rank-and-file finish casting their ballots on Tuesday while the lawmakers follow on Wednesday, when the results of both are announced.

You can follow the play-by-play on Wednesday on Bloomberg’s TOPLive blog.

(All times are estimates and in JST)

1 p.m.: Party lawmaker voting begins

2:20 p.m.: Results are announced

  • If any candidate gets a clear majority of votes -- an unlikely outcome -- they are declared the winner

  • If not, a run-off vote between the top-two candidates begins immediately. In this vote, lawmakers retain their 382 votes, but just 47 go to the prefectural chapters of the rank-and-file members

3:40 p.m.: Winner of the run-off vote is announced

The winner will give a news conference at about 6 p.m., and is set to be elected as prime minister when parliament convenes on Oct. 4.

The Scenarios

It looks unlikely that any candidate will secure enough votes for a first-round majority.

Public favorite Taro Kono “is likely to lead in the first round, but fall short of securing a majority,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists wrote in a Sept. 27 note. Attention then turns to how many lawmaker votes go to the second-place candidate, likely to be Fumio Kishida or Sanae Takaichi. The Kishida and Takaichi camps have pledged to cooperate if this scenario materializes, citing concerns about Kono’s policies on pensions and energy, the Sankei newspaper said Wednesday.

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SMBC Nikko Chief Economist Junichi Makino is among those who sees Kishida as having the advantage in a run-off, but sees a path for Kono if LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai seeks to block Kishida. If Nikai and Finance Minister Taro Aso’s factions vote Takaichi into the run-off, then “a victory for Kono becomes possible,” he wrote.

Last Time

It’s been nearly a decade since the LDP had an open battle for leader. In a similar race to what’s expected Wednesday, Shigeru Ishiba finished first in that vote, but failed to secure a majority, with Abe coming second. In the run-off vote, Ishiba was handily defeated, and Abe elected.

While that day the run-off result came before the 3 p.m. stock market close, reaction was muted -- the Abenomics surge didn’t happen until later that year as elections approached, with the LDP still in opposition at the time.

Watch Media

With party member voting ending Tuesday, watch local media, who will be exhaustively polling to try to identify the winner. In 2012, the Sankei declared the morning of the vote that Abe was favorite to win a run-off, correctly predicting Ishiba would win the first round but that Abe would dominate the second phase.

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