Tokyo elects first woman governor as it prepares for its Olympics

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TOKYO, July 31 (Reuters) - Voters in the Japanese capital elected their first woman governor on Sunday, after two predecessors stepped down over scandals that clouded the city's preparations to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games.

Yuriko Koike, Japan's first female defense minister, beat former bureaucrat and fellow member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party Hiroya Masuda, as well as liberal journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, according to an exit poll by public broadcaster NHK.

Koike, 64, angered the Tokyo branch of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party by not getting its approval before announcing her candidacy for city governor. The LDP instead drafted Masuda, 64, who once served as governor of a rural prefecture.

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"Taking this result very heavily, as the new governor I would like move forward firmly with the administration of the metropolis," Koike, an experienced politician fluent in English and Arabic, told supporters.

"I would like to move forward with a metropolitan administration such as has never happened, never been seen, together with all of you."

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Former Japanese defence minister Yuriko Koike (C) and supporters celebrate her win as Tokyo governor, in Tokyo on July 31, 2016. Veteran politician Yuriko Koike was elected governor of Tokyo on July 31, according to media exit polls, becoming the first woman to lead Japan's capital. / AFP / JIJI PRESS / JIJI PRESS / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, a candidate for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial elections, delivers an election campaign speech in Tokyo on July 30, 2016. Tokyo votes on July 31 for a new governor who will have to get gaffe-plagued preparations for the 2020 Olympics back on track and avoid spending scandals that forced the last two incumbents to quit. / AFP / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 14 : Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and former defense minister Yuriko Koike greets people as she kicks off her campaign for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election in front of the City Hall Tokyo, Japan on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 14 : Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and former defense minister Yuriko Koike greets people as she kicks off her campaign for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election in front of the City Hall Tokyo, Japan on Thursday, July 14, 2016. (Photo by David Mareuil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Yuriko Koike, a lawmaker of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former Defence Minister, attends the Renault General Meeting in Paris on April 30, 2013. Koike is to be appointed as member of Renault's Board of Directors during the meeting. AFP PHOTO ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 07: Yuriko Koike (L) and guest attend the 'La Glace et le Ciel' Paris Premiere at Gaumont Champs-Elysees on October 7, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering)
Yuriko Koike (C), former defence minister and only female candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader race shakes hands with her supporters at downtown Tokyo on September 19, 2008. The LDP will vote for a replacement for unpopular Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on September 22. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO - SEPTEMBER 16: Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike (L), a candidate for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, shakes hands with Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during a luncheon ahead of the election at Selan restaurant on September 16, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. The president of the ruling LDP party, whose position will be for the new Japanese Prime Minister, will be elected on September 22. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)
Yuriko Koike, a candidate for party president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, delivers an election campaign speech during a rally at Shibuya district in Tokyo on September 11, 2008. Conservative former foreign minister Taro Aso has locked up a majority of lawmakers in the race to be Japan's next prime minister, a media projection said September 11, despite spirited competition. AFP PHOTO/Kazuhiro NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO - SEPTEMBER 10: Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike attends a kick-off ceremony for the LDP party's presidential election campaign at Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarter on September 10, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. Taro Aso, Yuriko Koike, Shigeru Ishiba, Nobuteru Ishihara and Kaoru Yosano are running for the election, the new Japanese Prime Minister will be decided on September 22. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
TOKYO - SEPTEMBER 08: Former Japanese Defense Minister Yuriko Koike speaks at a press conference at the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Headquarter on September 8, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. Koike launched a bid to be Japan's first woman prime minister. The campaign will start on September 10 and a new Japanese Prime Minister will be decided on September 22. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike (C) attends the Liberal Democratic Party 's general meeting by the party's Diet members in Tokyo on September 3, 2008. The LDP confirmed September 22 as the date to select the next prime minister after Yasuo Fukuda's abrupt resignation.. AFP PHOTO/Kazuhiro NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The NHK exit poll showed Masuda was in second place, with Torigoe, a 76-year-old cancer survivor who was backed by several opposition parties, trailed both.

The sprawling city of some 13.5 million people faces a plethora of problems such as an aging population, daycare shortage, and the ever-present possibility of a big earthquake.

But a big issue in the campaign was the 2020 Olympics, which Japan hopes will spur its economy, struggling to escape decades of deflation.

Construction of the main stadium has been delayed and the original logo for the games had to be scrapped after plagiarism accusations.

After the resignations of the city's two previous governors, Koike will be responsible for saving Tokyo's reputation as host for the games.

One of her first duties will be to travel to Rio de Janeiro when the curtain comes down on next month's games there to accept the Olympic flag as the next host.

"The Olympics are right in front of us. I want to use them as a chance to build a new Tokyo for beyond 2020," Koike said when the campaign began.

Though the LDP and its coalition partner backed Masuda, fallout for Abe will likely be minimal despite Masuda's loss.

"This is basically a Tokyo issue," said Kenji Yumoto, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute think-tank. "Abe's prestige probably won't be damaged and support for the LDP won't fall." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Linda Sieg, Robert Birsel and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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