TOKYO — Former Finance Minister Noboru Takeshita emerged Wednesday as the front-runner in the race to succeed Japan's Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone later this year, political analysts said.
Takeshita, 63, won the support of 118 fellow members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, giving him the upper hand in the fight to control the party's largest faction and become the country's next leader, the analysts said.
"Takeshita has become the front-runner," Masayuki Fukuoka of Komazawa University said.
But he and other analysts said the situation is still highly uncertain and could change dramatically before Nakasone steps down, probably at the end of October.
Four senior members of the Liberal Democratic Party are jockeying to succeed Nakasone--party Secretary General Takeshita, former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and former party Vice President Susumu Nikaido.
Takeshita and Nikaido, 77, have been battling for control of the party's largest faction, nominally led by ailing former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
At Wednesday's event, Takeshita was able to muster more than 80% of the faction's support.