Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, as its choice for the next prime minister.

By selecting Mr. Kishida, 64, a moderate party stalwart, in a runoff election for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party, the party’s elites appeared to disregard the public’s preferences and choose a candidate who offered little to distinguish himself from the unpopular departing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga.

Wednesday’s leadership election was the most hotly contested in years. While party leaders usually coalesce around a candidate, this time it was not clear that Mr. Kishida would prevail until the ballots were counted in a second round at a luxury hotel in Tokyo.

Mr. Kishida defeated his chief rival, Taro Kono, an outspoken American-educated maverick, 257 to 170, in a runoff vote

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