Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) votes for a new leader on Wednesday, who will almost certainly become the next prime minister, after current premier Yoshihide Suga announced he would not seek a second term as party leader.
Running for the top post are popular vaccine minister Taro Kono, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda from the party's dwindling liberal wing.
Here are the next steps and important dates in Japan's political calendar.
Why does it matter?
* The winner of the LDP leadership race is expected toreplace Suga as premier of Japan given the LDP's majority inparliament's powerful lower house. * The new prime minister will have to deal with an economybattered by emergency curbs aimed at stopping the spread ofcoronavirus, which is only now starting to slow and strains onthe medical system ease. * The new prime minister must call an election this year.
How does the vote work?
* There will be 764 votes up for grabs for the LDPleadership race, with the candidate who takes the majority setto become party president. * Half of the votes (382) will be allocated to LDP lawmakerswho will cast one ballot each. * The other half are determined by 1.13 millionrank-and-file party members registered with the LDP. The votescast by party members will be allocated according to aproportional representation system called the D'Hondt method. * If no one wins a majority in the first round of voting,there will be a run-off vote between the top two candidates. * A total of 429 votes will be cast in the run-off, of which382 lawmakers and 47 local party chapters will be allocated aballot each.
What happens after the LDP leadership vote?
* Once a new LDP leader is elected, parliament will becalled into session on Oct. 4 to elect the country's next primeminister. The candidate who wins the majority of votes cast bythe lower and upper houses of parliament will take the top job. * If the two chambers choose different candidates, andnegotiations between the two houses fail to agree on one, thelower house decision will prevail. Given the LDP's majority inthe lower chamber, the LDP leader will likely be elected asprime minister. * The new premier is also expected to form a new cabinet andreshuffle the LDP party executives in early Oct.
When is the next general election?
* The terms of the current members of the lower house ofparliament run until Oct. 21, meaning a general election will beheld this year. * Prime ministers reserve the right to dissolve the lowerhouse of parliament and call a snap election. Snap electionsmust take place within 40 days of the premier dissolving thelower house of parliament. * Local media have reported, quoting LDP executives, thatthe lower chamber will likely be dissolved in mid-October, withthe election slated for either Nov. 7 or Nov. 14. In Japan,elections are traditionally held on a Sunday.