Tokyo elects first female governor; former TV journalist, speaks Arabic

TOKYO, Aug. 1 (UPI) — Yuriko Koike, former Japanese defense minister, was elected Tokyo’s first female governor, defeating two other candidates.

Nearly 60 percent of voters, 14 percentage points higher than the 2012 gubernatorial race, turned out to elect Koike, 64. Regarded as a conservative despite her Liberal Democratic Party membership, she received 2.91 million votes; Hiroya Masuda, endorsed by the Liberal Democrats, received 1.79 million and opposition candidate Shuntaro Torigoe received 1.34 million.

She is now governor of about 13.6 million residents of Tokyo and about 20 million more in the separately administered suburbs. The position is roughly equivalent to an American mayor and state governor. Women have been elected to Japanese governorships in the past, but never as governor of Tokyo.

Koike’s biography includes a divorce, an education which led to a degree from Cairo University and fluency in Arabic, and a career as a television news broadcaster, each a rarity for a Japanese politician.

Her opponents in the election made errors that drove voters to Koike’s side. Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, in support of Masuda, launched personal attacks on Koike, and Torigoe struggled with accusations that, 13 year earlier, he sexually harassed a female college student.

Kioke has had an ongoing feud with the Tokyo assembly, and observers suggest her cooperation will be required to pass local ordinances and budgets, the Japan Times reported Monday. She will also preside as governor as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Her predecessor in the governor’s position, Yoichi Masuzoe, fought with organizing officials over the Olympics’ escalating budget.

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