There’s been a lot of talk about women politicians breaking “glass ceilings” – service-wise – after Hillary Clinton became the Democratic candidate for the 2016 US Presidential polls just last month. On the first day of this month, a glass ceiling was broken in Tokyo, Japan as Yuriko Koike became its first elected female governor, according to a report by Reuters.
Looking at the lady herself however, you get the impression that breaking those glass ceilings of political advancement is her specialty. After all, Koike’s broken it before when she was appointed the country’s first female Defense Minister by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first term in 2007 (despite serving at the post only 57 days before retiring in protest over leaking of classified military information). She made another small in 2008 when she sought to be elected leader of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, gathering much support despite ultimately running third place. Koike, who is fluent in both English and Arabic, is familiar with Hillary Clinton’s glass ceiling remarks, but adds that in Japan women advancement is blocked by an “iron plate” instead.
Now the 64-year old former television broadcaster is gearing to take the reins of Japan’s massive capital and set things in order after her two immediate predecessors resigned owing to allegations of misuse of public funds in the city’s preparations to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The election for former Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe saw Koike taking on liberal journalist Shintaro Torigoe and Hiroya Masuda, the official candidate of her party the Liberal Democrats, as she had not bothered gaining the approval of the LDP Tokyo chapter.
That makes for some real guts out of Koike’s part as Japanese society, both politics and business, remains dominated by men even today. The Inter-Parliamentary Union notes that women comprise only 9.5% of the nation’s House of Representatives, and Koike at present is only one of three incumbent women governors – the other two of prefectures.
Still, it’s not going to distract her from the pressing issues of her new office: Tokyo’s increasing middle-aged population, insufficient daycare facilities, and the permanent risks of yet another massive earthquake. But the foremost pickle right now is the stalled groundwork of the facilities for the Olympics; construction of the main stadium has been plagued by repeated delays. On the PR front, the proposed logo has been slammed with charges of plagiarism, prompting a new round of redesigns that are not yet finalized.
These difficulties, which saw the resignation of two previous Tokyo Governors, are what Koike must solve in time to salvage the city’s image as a future and repeat Olympic host. Part of her work to that end is her mandatory attendance at the closing of the Rio games in order to receive the Olympic flag and formalize Tokyo’s status as the venue of the 2020 Olympics.
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