Koike wins third term as Tokyo governor

Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko has won her third term following Sunday's vote.

Koike addressed her supporters and cited various challenges Tokyo is facing, such as soaring prices and a falling birthrate.

"Our challenge is how to proceed with digital transformation as industries have changed significantly," she said.

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Koike Yuriko spoke to her supporters on Sunday evening.

Koike also said that the environment for women's empowerment is "insufficient compared to other parts of the world." She added, "We must raise up our efforts to keep improving Tokyo."

NHK's exit polls showed Koike ahead of other candidates, including Ishimaru Shinji, former mayor of Akitakata City in western Japan's Hiroshima Prefecture, as well as former Upper House lawmaker Renho.

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NHK conducted exit polls on Sunday.

A former defense minister, 71-year-old Koike has served in both the Upper and Lower houses of Japan's Diet. She became Tokyo's first female governor in 2016.

During the campaign, Koike stressed the achievements of her two terms in the governor's seat. She also pledged more support to deal with the declining birthrate, saying the Metropolitan Government will expand its free childcare.

Koike faced a record 55 rivals in the gubernatorial race.

Analysis: Koike's incumbent status helped her in Tokyo governor race

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NHK World's senior political commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi explains the outcome which has set Koike on track for her third term.

Masuda: I get the impression that Koike benefitted from her status. An incumbent has never lost a Tokyo gubernatorial election.

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Incumbents have name recognition, and can easily promote their accomplishments. During the campaign, Koike repeatedly highlighted her achievements, such as making high school education virtually free. That move was highly evaluated by the generation now raising children.

NHK's exit polls showed nearly 70 percent of respondents appreciate what Koike has done. Many voters apparently lack strong motivation to replace her.

Q: What role did Japan's main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, play in the Tokyo election?

Masuda: The LDP's approval rating has been low, mainly due to a political fundraising scandal. Koike tried to protect herself from the headwind against the LDP. But she also wanted help from the party's organizational power.

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Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's Cabinet has a low approval rate.

Meanwhile, the LDP wanted to take advantage of Koike's popularity. So it took a strategy of voluntarily supporting Koike. The LDP had suffered losses in recent Lower House by-elections and local elections. That's why it's relieved that voters chose the candidate it supported.

Q: The largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, or CDP, supported Renho. What does her performance mean for the party?

Masuda: Exit polls showed Renho far behind Koike, and also lagging Ishimaru Shinji. This sent shockwaves through the CDP.

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Exit polls show Renho in third place.

Renho was the party's face, and some observers thought she was the strongest candidate. The CDP had hoped to capitalize on growing criticism of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio's administration and the LDP, over the issues related to politics and money.

The CDP's plan was to win the Tokyo gubernatorial election following the Lower House by-election. That would have put it on strong footing for the next Lower House election. Now, this strategy has collapsed, and I think the party has lost momentum.

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