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Why It Matters

Tokyo chief Yuriko Koike's Olympic-size job

Ms Yuriko Koike assumed office as Tokyo's first female governor yesterday, and the world is watching to see how she will clean up the mess left by her predecessor and lead the city as it gears up for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Right after a landslide victory in Sunday's polls, she vowed to get Tokyo back on track in its preparation for the Games and promised accountability.

Olympic works have been hit by snags such as an abandoned stadium design and bribery allegations, and now a bill that has ballooned to 1.8 trillion yen (S$23.7 billion) - six times the initial budget.

Ms Koike, a former defence and environment minister, has said that she will set up a watchdog unit within the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to ensure taxpayer funds are not misused - a significant move after the the opaque handling of monies under the previous administration.

The last governor, Mr Yoichi Masuzoe, resigned in disgrace in June, having incurred wrath for splurging official funds on first-class travel, lavish dining and expensive artwork.

Ms Koike said she will put a lid on the escalating costs for the Olympics, and also pledged to mend fences with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to avoid a deadlock. She is an LDP veteran, but the party brass had threatened to expel her after she ran for the governorship without their blessings. She won with 44.5 per cent of the 6.6 million votes cast - way above the 27.4 per cent won by LDP-backed Hiroya Masuda, also a former Cabinet minister.

 
 

SIM University Japan expert Lim Tai Wei said her election victory is "symbolic of the fact that another gender barrier has

been broken" in a country notorious for gender inequality.

But it remains unclear if LDP representatives in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly will be of help or a hindrance to Ms Koike. Some LDP officials had demanded that no one representing the party should meet her on her introductory tour yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'Tokyo chief's Olympic-size job'. Print Edition | Subscribe