Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, widely regarded as one of the most powerful women in Japan, has been re-elected to a second term in a landslide victory.
Ms Koike, a rare female figure in a male dominated political world, defeated a record 21 rivals in Sunday’s election, reflecting the public’s tacit support for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Her victory in Sunday’s election coincided with 111 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Tokyo, marking the fourth consecutive day of cases topping 100 and sparking renewed concerns of a second wave.
Pledging to continue the fight against coronavirus in an online victory speech, she said: “I am very happy, and simultaneously feel the heaviness of the responsibility.”
She added: “This is an important time to be prepared for the second wave of the coronavirus. We want to respond to it firmly.”
Ms Koike, 67, a former TV anchorwoman, became the first female governor of Tokyo in 2016 following decades of high-level political experience, with previous posts including defence minister and environment minister.
Media-savvy Ms Koike, who is often cited as a possible future prime minister, faces a sensitive task in minimising the impact of coronavirus on businesses in Tokyo, which accounts for about 20 percent of Japan’s economy.
Japan has experienced low coronavirus infection figures compared to many other global regions. However, densely-packed Tokyo has long been the hub of infection cases, reporting about half of the nation’s new daily cases in recent weeks, despite being home to only a tenth of Japan’s population.
The veteran conservative is also faced with the mammoth task of staging a “simplified” Olympics next year, after the 2020 Summer Games, due to kick off this month, were postponed.
“What can we do to host a safe and secure Games?” Ms Koike said. “How can we reduce its cost and simplify it? I wish to continue working on our coronavirus measures so that it will become reality.”
Ms Koike easily eclipsed the opposition in Sunday’s election, with the governor securing 1.98 million votes, while her next closest challenger lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, 73, won 470,000 votes.
Voting in the age of Covid-19 involved polling station staff wearing masks, face shields and gloves, while social distancing floor tape was used to disperse crowds.