Yasuo Fukuda is the runaway favorite to become Japan's next prime minister, according to a newspaper poll of ruling party lawmakers who will vote for a new leader on Sunday.
The Yomiuri Shimbun survey, released on Monday, showed that 55% of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers would back the 71-year-old Fukuda and just 12% would support his rival for the job, hawkish former foreign minister Taro Aso.
Whoever is elected president of the LDP is assured of the premiership as the ruling coalition commands a firm majority in parliament's lower house, which picks the prime minister. The race was triggered by the abrupt resignation of Shinzo Abe as prime minister last week.
The survey Yomiuri Shimbun survey, conducted from Friday to Sunday, polled 258 of the 387 LDP lawmakers who will vote.
The newspaper said Fukuda, an advocate of closer ties with other Asian countries, was also likely to draw a hefty chunk of the 141 votes allocated to the LDP's prefectural chapters, giving him a comfortable majority to win the leadership.
Fukuda has stressed the need to carry on economic reforms while paying more attention to weak regional areas.