Tokyo Governor Masuzoe Submits Resignation Over Expenses Scandal

  • Resignation comes ahead of July national upper house election
  • Masuzoe apologized for resort ‘conferences’, official car use

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe submitted his resignation Wednesday, after it became clear the city’s assembly was set to pass a no-confidence motion against him over alleged misuse of political funds and official perks.

Masuzoe, 67, who was backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the governor’s post, was grilled by the Tokyo assembly and the media after he logged stays at a resort hotel with his family as "conferences,” spent excessively on foreign trips and used his official car for frequent visits to his villa at a hot spring resort.

He has handed in his resignation, according to the Tokyo government. The development was also widely reported in the local media.

By doing so, Masuzoe avoided the passage of the first no-confidence motion in the assembly’s history. The scandal over his spending had gripped the media for weeks and comes as Abe prepares for a national upper house election next month, where he is hoping for a bigger majority for his ruling coalition.

The departure of a second governor in less than three years is another blow to the city’s hosting of the 2020 Olympics. While Tokyo celebrated its winning bid three years ago, Masuzoe’s predecessor, Naoki Inose, who helped orchestrate the host-city pitch in 2013, resigned later that year after failing to declare what he said was a personal loan of 50 million yen ($471,000) from Japan’s largest hospital operator.

The organizers have since been forced to ditch a futuristic design for the main stadium after costs ballooned, and replace their emblem following accusations of plagiarism.

Questions were also raised last month after French prosecutors began a probe into a $2 million payment to a Singapore-based account from a Japanese bank, in the final stages of the host city selection process. Tokyo officials deny any wrongdoing.

A multilingual former health minister, Masuzoe made the leap from academia to politics after writing a memoir about caring for his mother while she suffered from dementia. He was elected governor in 2014.

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