Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike declared victory in an election for a second term, as the city tries to keep a fresh surge of Covid-19 in check and maintain hopes of hosting the Olympics in 2021.
Koike, the first woman elected to govern the 14 million-strong city, prevailed over 21 challengers on Sunday to win another four-year term, national public broadcaster NHK and other local media projected, based on exit polling. She had gained support over the past few months for her management of the disease, which bolstered her popularity ahead of the election.
“I have heard that my victory is now certain,” she said shortly after polls closed at 8 pm, going on to thank supporters. “The most urgent problem now is dealing with the virus.”
Her victory comes after the daily tally of confirmed cases nearly doubled to 131 on July 4 in just three days, and Koike asked residents of the capital not to travel to other parts of the country unnecessarily. The count was 111 on Sunday.
Koike said she wanted to set up a Tokyo version of the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with existing resources. Although the current situation may seem similar to March and April when cases spiked, it’s different in that many of the infected are in their 20s and 30s who are less likely to fall severely ill, she said.
Local governments had urged residents to cast their votes in advance or early in the day to avoid crowds that could spread the coronavirus.
Koike herself shunned public speeches for safety reasons, instead opting to campaign online. The voter turnout rate was slightly lower than the last election, according preliminary data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Election Administration Commission.