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Tokyo Voters Elect City’s First Woman Governor


Former defense minister Yuriko Koike, center, celebrates her election as Tokyo governor with supporters.

Former defense minister Yuriko Koike, center, celebrates her election as Tokyo governor with supporters.

Voters in Tokyo have elected the city’s first female governor.

Sixty-four-year-old Yuriko Koike received the most votes in local elections on Sunday. Koike was elected to a four-year term as governor of the Japanese capital, which is one of the world’s largest and wealthiest cities. She will help to direct work for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

Preparations for the games have suffered for a number of reasons, including over-spending and delays on building projects. The first logo of the 2020 Olympics had to be redesigned following accusations of plagiarism. A Belgian designer claimed the image was like one of his creations.

The skyline of Japan's capital, Tokyo. (S. Herman/VOA)

The skyline of Japan's capital, Tokyo. (S. Herman/VOA)

Yuriko Koike will be replacing Yoichi Masuzoe as Tokyo’s governor. He resigned after reports that he had misused public money. He was the second Tokyo governor to resign since the city won the right to host the 2020 Olympics.

Koike has promised to change the city’s politics. “I want to regain the trust of the people of Tokyo,” she said late Sunday.

Michael Cucek is with Temple University’s Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies. He spoke to VOA’s Victor Beattie about the election.

Cucek says Koike’s win is a sign that Tokyo voters want social change. He says women have made progress in recent years. In addition, the Japanese constitution guarantees equal rights to women. However, that has not meant that women have reached the highest levels of government and business in Japan.

“But even now members of the diet, members of the bureaucracy, high-level executives in corporations, particularly Japan’s biggest international corporations, the levels of female managers and the levels of female participants is still astoundingly low for an industrialized country.”

Koike already served as Japan’s first female defense minister. She is a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. Yet, she went against her party’s wishes to run for the governorship of Tokyo. She defeated the LDP candidate and a candidate from the Komeito Party, which is a coalition partner with the LDP.

Michael Cucek says this could make governing difficult.

“She goes in an extremely difficult political situation. She defied her own party in running, and thus cannot rely on the assemblymen who are LDP members or Komeito members, the other party of the coalition, and so she has no allies.”

Koike promised an administration different from the ones before. "I would like, together with all of you, to run a metropolitan administration the likes of which have never been seen before," she said.

Cucek says Koike faces the possibility that costs for the Summer Olympics could rise sharply. During her campaign, she said she wanted the national government to pay more of the Olympic costs.

One of Koike’s first duties will be to attend the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. There she is to accept the Olympic flag as the next host of the games.

I’m Mario Ritter.

This story was based on reporting from Victor Beattie of VOA News and other news sources. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

plagiarismn. taking someone else’s work and presenting it as one’s own

diet n. Japan’s legislature, which has two houses

participants n. those who take part in something

astoundingly adv. surprisingly, causing wonder

metropolitanadj. related to a city and surrounding suburban areas

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