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Koike becomes Tokyo's 1st female governor in landslide win

Yuriko Koike shakes hands with one of her supporters in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, on July 31, 2016, as she was certain to win the Tokyo gubernatorial election. (Mainichi)

Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike scored a landslide victory in the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election, becoming the first female governor of Japan's capital.

Koike, 64, beat former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda, 64, supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), its coalition partner Komeito and the Party for Japanese Kokoro, and journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, 76, backed by four opposition parties -- the Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People's Life Party -- among other candidates. Voter turnout was 59.73 percent, as compared with 46.14 percent in the previous election.

Yuriko Koike waves to her supporters in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, on July 31, 2016, as she was certain to win the Tokyo gubernatorial election. (Mainichi)

Koike garnered 2,912,628 votes compared to Masuda's 1,793,453 and Torigoe's 1,346,103.

Koike gained wide support from Tokyo residents by pledging to drastically reform Tokyo although the LDP, of which she is a member, fielded Masuda.

A television station showed a news flash reporting that Koike would certainly win the election shortly after polling stations were closed at 8 p.m. Koike appeared at her campaign office about five minutes later.

"Although I'm immature, I have managed to win the election thanks to the backing of many people," a smiling Koike said.

Koike shook hands with her supporters in the election office in which many pieces of green paper bearing messages from her supporters were posted on a wall.

She bowed repeatedly and said, "I express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you."

Koike ended her 24-year career in national politics and declared her candidacy saying, "I am ready to take the plunge." She ran in the race without the backing of the LDP.

Koike showed her confrontational attitude to the metropolitan assembly during her campaigning, declaring that she would dissolve the chamber on the assumption that the legislature would adopt a no-confidence motion against her.

After winning the election, however, she hinted that she was ready to cooperate with the assembly and will seek to avert a conflict with the chamber.

"I've been elected governor by metropolitan residents, and assembly members have also been elected by residents. I'd like to cooperate with the metropolitan assembly in achieving policy measures beneficial to metropolitan residents," Koike said. "By adopting a 'residents first' attitude rather than causing confusion, we'll inevitably come up with answers."

She also declared that she will halve her salary as governor in a bid to demonstrate that she is prepared to sacrifice herself for the reform of the metropolitan administration.

Koike placed emphasis on measures to address the day care waiting list issue and nursing care problems.

"The day care waiting list issue is a typical problem. We can reform Tokyo into a city filled with happiness by promoting policy measures to support women. I'd like to make Tokyo a city where both women and men can shine. We must press forward with measures to address the day care waiting list and nursing care issues," she said.

Koike said she will closely scrutinize the political funding scandal involving her predecessor Yoichi Masuzoe to prevent a recurrence.

"Mixing private and public matters is impermissible. Such a practice is most problematic. We'd like to scrutinize the past problem from the viewpoint of what should be done to prevent a recurrence," Koike commented.

Shigeru Uchida, secretary-general of the LDP's Tokyo chapter who was criticized by Koike during her campaigning for exercising strong control over the chapter, conceded defeat.

"I think we suffered a complete defeat," Uchida told reporters as he left the campaign office for Masuda.

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