(Bloomberg) -- The four candidates seeking to replace outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are battling on social media and in a series of online debates as they look to firm up support before a party leadership election in five days.

Candidates Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi, Taro Kono and Seiko Noda are reaching out to the rank-and-file members of the Liberal Democratic Party on Twitter and YouTube. The race is still fairly wide open, as many of the party’s powerful factions haven’t lined up behind one contender in the Sept. 29 leadership election. Kono has the most followers on Twitter -- about 2.4 million on his Japanese-language account -- while Takaichi attracted attention by uploading a video of her discussions with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen this week. 

The LDP vote is evenly divided between the party’s lawmakers and rank-and-file members. The winner is virtually assured of becoming prime minister due to the LDP’s dominance in parliament, which is set to hold a special session on Oct. 4 to elect the new premier.

Suga is in the U.S. for a White House meeting among the leaders of the Quad nations, which also includes the U.S., Australia and India. He told Bloomberg in an interview earlier this week that China’s rising military might could threaten Japan’s economy.

Countdown:

Five days to Sept. 29 vote: The LDP will hold an election among its lawmakers and rank-and-file members -- with the two groups each having 382 votes. If a candidate does not win a majority of the 764 votes, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters. 

Candidates:

  • Fumio Kishida, former foreign minister and leader of a faction
  • Sanae Takaichi, former internal affairs minister trying to become the first female premier
  • Taro Kono, vaccine czar who has served as foreign and defense minister
  • Seiko Noda, another former internal affairs minister also trying to become the first female premier

Kono and Kishida are seen as the top two candidates followed by Takaichi and Noda. Although the public doesn’t get a say in the party’s election, voters will make their voices heard in a national election that must be held by the end of November. 

Key stories and developments:

  • Race for Japan’s Top Job Shows Women Have Made Little Progress
  • China Military Rise Could Threaten Japan Economy, PM Suga Warns
  • Japan PM Contenders Back Cash Handouts as Race for Leader Opens
  • BOJ’s Kuroda Reaffirms Policy Mix Need Ahead of Leadership Vote
  • Next-Generation Japan Lawmakers Cheer ‘Chaotic’ Premier Fight
  • Japan’s Leadership Rivals Diverge on Economic Paths After Covid

Media roundup:

  • Kono backed by just over 40% of LDP rank-and-file members, Mainichi says
  • Majority of Japanese Favor Kono as Ruling LDP Head: Sankei Poll
  • Quad leaders to use stronger language on China, Kyodo says
  • Japan hopefuls urge elderly to stay at work, Kyodo says

Polls:

A poll this week from the Mainichi newspaper said more than 30% of the LDP’s parliamentary lawmakers -- who have 382 votes in total -- appear to support Kishida. Kono is in the mid-20% range. Takaichi is at about 20% and Noda is at less than 10%. Kono is the leading candidate in public polling and expected to pull in the most support from the LDP’s rank and file, which also has 382 votes. 

Factions:

Kishida has his own 46-member faction and can count on it voting as a bloc for him. The biggest faction, which includes former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is allowing its nearly 100 members to vote for the candidate of their choice, while Abe has thrown his support behind Takaichi. Kono is a member of the Aso faction, which is set to offer major backing. The Ishiba faction, with 17 members, and the Ishihara faction with 10, are leaning to Kono.  

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