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First Woman Governor Elected in Tokyo, Says Defying Party Secured Win | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tokyo elects Yuriko Koike as first female governor to lead city. Reuters

Tokyo’s new governor Yuriko Koike on Monday 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.

Koike, 64, was elected Tokyo’s first female governor in the Sunday vote, winning more than 2.9 million votes, far outpacing the nearly 1.8 million ballots cast for closest challenger Hiroya Masuda.

Masuda, a former governor of Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, was the favored candidate of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner.

The LDP spurned Koike, an LDP member, for failing to seek its approval before announcing her candidacy, with a top party official calling her “selfish.”

Last Friday, Koike said during one of her campaigns that she would fight terrorism.

“I know the Middle East well. I will fight terrorism but I differentiate between it and Islam. The Islamic religion has nothing to do with terrorism,” she said.

The election 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.

A key challenge facing Koike will be to get a grip on Tokyo’s troubled path to hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, which has been plagued by scandals and cost overruns.

She vowed late Sunday to be transparent on the budget and restore the trust of voters in the sprawling metropolis of 13.6 million people.

Koike, who has studied sociology in the University of Cairo in the 1970s and was a TV presenter before becoming a politician, is a well-known political figure.

She was a parliamentarian and used to head Japanese-Arab friendship commissions that had created ties between MPs in Japan and lawmakers in Kuwait, Iraq the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Palestine.

Koike has also made contributions to several Arab-Japanese projects.