Toshihiro Nikai, Japan’s Top Vote-Getter, May Succeed Abe As Prime Minister

TOKYO — Representative Toshihiro Nikai of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who has a reputation as a master strategist with a sharp tongue, is emerging as a potential successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is expected to resign soon..

Mr. Nikai, 81, has been in politics for more than half a century, and his career has been marked by both success and scandal. He is known for his ability to form alliances and gather votes, and he is also one of the most powerful figures in the L.D.P..

In a recent poll by the Kyodo News agency, Mr. Nikai was chosen as the most popular choice to succeed Mr. Abe, with 33 percent of respondents saying they would support him..

Mr. Nikai, who has held several cabinet positions, including secretary general of the L.D.P., is known as a “shadow shogun” because of his behind-the-scenes influence. He is also known for his close ties to the party’s conservative wing..

If Mr. Nikai does become prime minister, he would be the oldest person to hold the post since Kakuei Tanaka, who was 74 when he took office in 1972..

Mr. Nikai’s rise to prominence comes at a time when the L.D.P. is facing a leadership vacuum. Mr. Abe has been in power for nearly eight years, and he has not designated a successor..

Other potential candidates to succeed Mr. Abe include Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba..

Mr. Suga, 71, is a close ally of Mr. Abe, and he is known for his loyalty and efficiency. He is also the current favorite to succeed Mr. Abe, according to a recent poll by the Nikkei newspaper..

Mr. Kishida, 63, is a former banker who is seen as a moderate within the L.D.P. He is known for his diplomatic skills and his ability to build consensus..

Mr. Ishiba, 64, is a former general who is known for his hawkish views on national security. He is also a popular figure among the party’s rank and file..

The L.D.P. is expected to hold a leadership election in September, and the winner will become prime minister..

It is still too early to say who will succeed Mr. Abe, but Mr. Nikai, Mr. Suga, Mr. Kishida, and Mr. Ishiba are all considered to be leading contenders for the post..

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