Former Japan health minister Yoichi Masuzoe wins Tokyo governor election

This file picture taken on February 2, 2014 shows Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Shinzo Abe (left) delivering a speech to support former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe (right) during Mr Masuzoe's election
This file picture taken on February 2, 2014 shows Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Shinzo Abe (left) delivering a speech to support former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe (right) during Mr Masuzoe's election campaign in Tokyo. Mr Masuzoe, 65, has won a four-year term as governor of Tokyo, handsomely beating his two nearest rivals who said Japan could do without nuclear energy. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

Former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, 65, has won a four-year term as governor of Tokyo, handsomely beating his two nearest rivals who said Japan could do without nuclear energy.

Shortly after polling closed at 7pm Singapore time, the Japanese media reported that he had won by a sizeable margin, based on exit polls and other data.

Barring any mishaps, Mr Masuzoe will be Tokyo's "face" at the 2016 Olympic closing ceremony at Rio de Janeiro, where Tokyo, as the next Olympic host city in 2020, will get to showcase its attractions to a worldwide audience over television.

Because the voluble scholar in international politics and one-time television presenter is in favour of nuclear energy as an energy source, Mr Masuzoe's election is expected to ease Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to push for the restarting of the country's idled nuclear reactors.

Reports said that the voter turnout on Sunday was sluggish.

One reason could be the weather. Although Tokyo was bathed in bright winter sunshine on Sunday, large parts of the city remained clogged in snow and slush, possibly deterring many people from trekking to polling booths.

Heavy snowfalls the whole of Saturday had blanketed Tokyo with 27cm of snow, the highest recorded in 45 years.

Another factor could have been voter fatigue.

Sunday's gubernatorial election was the third for Tokyo in as many years.

wengkin@sph.com.sg