Defying the party pays off for Yuriko
TOKYO’S new governor Yuriko Koike yesterday credited her landslide victory to having stood up to the powers that be in Japan’s ruling party who didn’t want her to run.
Ms Koike, 64, was elected Tokyo’s first female governor in the July 31 vote, winning more than 2.9 million votes, far outpacing the nearly 1.8 million ballots cast for closest challenger Hiroya Masuda.
Mr Masuda, a former governor of Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, was the favoured candidate of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner.
The LDP spurned Ms Koike, an LDP member, for failing to seek its approval before announcing her candidacy, with a top party official calling her “selfish”.
Ms Koike, however, had the last laugh after her campaign drew huge crowds during street rallies ahead of the vote.
“I fought this race without support from the party, and people joked I was like the sole player in a theatre company,” she said.
“But in the end it allowed us to move freely rather than restricting us in the campaign.”
The elections were 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.
A key challenge facing Ms Koike will be to get a grip on the city’s troubled path to hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, which has been plagued by scandals and cost overruns from the very start.
She vowed to be transparent on the budget and restore the trust of voters in the sprawling metropolis of 13.6 million people.
Her defeat of Mr Masuda, a veteran administrator who had won plaudits as governor of northeastern Iwate for 12 years, was a huge embarrassment for the conservative party.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, expressed disappointment that Mr Masuda lost but hinted the LDP could work with Ms Koike.
“It is important for the central government to cooperate (with the new governor) for the benefit of the Japanese people,” he said
The party having backed the wrong horse is also embarrassing for Mr Abe, who has vowed to improve conditions for women in male-dominated Japan so they can better contribute to the economy by taking senior positions in business and government.
But he personally never campaigned with Mr Masuda at his street rallies, while local media reported that the prime minister, who had once placed Ms Koike in key national security posts, may have tried to distance himself from his party’s harsh stance towards her. –
New governor Yuriko Koike says she will tackle the ballooning cost of the Tokyo Olympics.