TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s capital is voting Sunday for its leader after two predecessors resigned over money scandals as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, and hopes to lead the nation in an economic turnaround.
Among the top candidates for the governor of Tokyo, with a population of more than 13 million people and an annual budget bigger than Sweden’s, are former defense minister Yuriko Koike, journalist Shuntaro Torigoe and former rural governor Hiroya Masuda.
If Koike wins, she would become Tokyo’s first female governor. All the candidates are promising cleaner politics and efforts to respond to everyday issues such as the need for more child care centers so more women can work.
One of the first jobs for the winning candidate will be going to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as the representative of the city that’s hosting the next games.
Yoichi Masuzoe, the former governor, resigned in June after acknowledging exorbitant, though not illegal, spending of taxpayers’ money including for suite hotel rooms and expensive artwork purchases. The governor before him had also resigned in disgrace.
Planning for the Tokyo games has run into problems, including ballooning costs, the scrapping of the initial main stadium design and delays in construction. The Tokyo Olympics logo had to be redesigned after the initial choice was reportedly plagiarized.
The games are a centerpiece for Japan’s revival hopes as the world’s third largest economy strives to keep growth going, largely based on monetary policies after more than a decade of stagnation.
Tokyo makes up for a chunk of Japan’s economy, or a fifth of its gross domestic product, and is home to about half of the nation’s major companies. The city is hoping to showcase Japan’s prized technology, like self-driving vehicles, during the games.
Both Koike and Masuda are from the ruling pro-U.S., pro-business Liberal Democratic Party. Masuda, a former ministry bureaucrat, was chosen the official ruling party candidate, but Koike decided to still run and appears to be popular.
Lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya, who had almost won the last Tokyo gubernatorial race, pulled out to avoid dividing opposition supporters. The opposition candidate Torigoe, a cancer survivor who is married, was embroiled in a sex scandal, reported in a popular tabloid magazine during the campaign period. He denies the allegations.
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