TOKYO — Tokyo’s governor submitted his resignation on Wednesday after being criticised over lavish personal spending and faced with a no-confidence vote in the local assembly, reports said.
Yoichi Masuzoe, 67, informed the speaker of the Tokyo legislature of his intention to quit, public broadcaster NHK and other media reported, ahead of a scheduled no-confidence motion vote by lawmakers later in the day.
Tokyo officials could not immediately confirm the reports, which said the resignation would be effective next Tuesday. An election for a new governor is expected as early as next month.
News of the resignation comes as Tokyo is set to host the 2020 Olympics, and while Masuzoe’s departure is unlikely to impact the city’s ability to manage the event, his travails have proven a fresh embarrassment for the scandal-plagued Games.
Organisers were forced to scrap their original main stadium design due to high costs, had to weather plagiarism accusations over the Games’ logo and are now battling the fallout from an investigation by French prosecutors into $2 million in alleged bribes, which they deny.
Masuzoe had faced relentless media and legislative grilling over hefty spending on official overseas trips, online purchases of art and accommodation at high-end hotels and spas, some of which was paid for using official funds.
He has denied breaking any laws but has admitted ethical lapses and repeatedly apologised in an ultimately futile effort to weather the storm.
All major parties in the Tokyo legislature including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- the biggest force in the capital’s politics and the main supporter of Masuzoe -- agreed to submit a no-confidence motion against him over the scandal.
The powerful LDP joined calls for Masuzoe, a former party member, to resign amid concerns that its support for him could embarrass the party in July 10 elections for the upper house of parliament, local media said.
The motion was to be voted on later Wednesday, but reports said that plan has now been cancelled given the resignation.
Masuzoe’s problems began in April when reports emerged that he was using his official car to be driven at the weekends to a cottage south of Tokyo.
Further allegations emerged of lavish spending on overseas business trips, including first-class air travel, as well as family outings and accommodation in Japan.
The brouhaha has not gone down well with the general public in Japan amid stagnant economic growth and increasing hardship among low-wage earners. A perception of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the governor has also been criticised.
Masuzoe took office in February 2014 following an election to replace Naoki Inose, who abruptly resigned over a personal financial scandal after leading Tokyo’s campaign to win the 2020 Games.
On assuming office as governor, the telegenic French-speaking Masuzoe – a former health and labour minister -- pledged an administration free of money scandals. — AFP