Former government spokesperson Yasuo Fukuda is poised to win Sunday's election for a new chief of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), putting him in line to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The moderately conservative Fukuda is leading the race with the support of a majority of LDP lawmakers, against the party's Secretary General and former foreign minister Taro Aso, 67.
Fukuda, the 71-year-old son of former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, is expected to recover voters' trust in the Japanese government and gain support to extend the current anti-terrorism law to allow the Japanese military to refuel allied warships. He has expressed his intention to submit a new bill on the matter.
Abe announced his resignation on Sep 12 after he failed to gain support from the opposition on the extension of the special law on the refuelling issue, due to expire on Nov 1 after the opposition Democratic Party of Japan captured a majority in the upper house in July elections.
Abe remains hospitalised for a gastrointestinal disorder.
The LDP was expected to select the party leader Sunday, and the Japanese parliament is to elect a new prime minister on Tuesday.
Sunday's winner of the LDP post of party president is sure to become Japanese prime minister, because the party retains a comfortable majority in the lower chamber.