Veteran politician Yuriko Koike was elected as Tokyo’s first woman governor, according to media exit polls, and immediately vowed to get a grip on the megacity’s troubled 2020 Olympic preparations.
Public broadcaster NHK, Jiji Press and other major media forecast the 64-year-old Koike as the winner just after polls closed at 8 pm local time. Koike is a former TV anchorwoman, defence minister and environment minister. Official ballot counting in the sprawling metropolis of 13.6 million people, was expected to take hours to complete. But with three per cent of votes tallied she had more than 84,000 votes to slightly over 60,000 for her closest challenger. Koike claimed victory and addressed supporters shortly after the media declared her the winner.
“I will lead Tokyo politics in an unprecedented manner, a Tokyo you have never seen,” she said in a voice made mildly hoarse after two weeks of campaigning.
The election, contested by a record field of 21 candidates, was called after previous governor Yoichi Masuzoe resigned over a financial scandal involving the lavish use of public funds on hotels and spa trips — the second successive Tokyo leader to quit. Koike largely played down her achievement of becoming the capital’s first woman governor in a male-dominated society but said she will push female-friendly policies “so that both women and men can shine in Tokyo”.
A key task will be smoothing the city’s troubled road to the 2020 Olympics, hit by a series of embarrassing scandals and soaring costs. Koike’s four-year term will extend until just after the summer Games start and her performance in the run-up will be closely watched.