Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe attends a news conference at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office in Tokyo, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino(reuters_tickers)
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe resigned on Wednesday after coming under fire for misuse of tax money, including spending on family trips and artwork, the latest embarrassment as the Japanese capital prepares to host the 2020 Olympics.
He is the second governor to quit since Tokyo won the rights to hold the 2020 summer games, though officials say his departure will not have an impact on preparations. His predecessor quit over a funding scandal just months after the Japanese capital won hosting rights.
Masuzoe, 67, who won election in 2014 with support from the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, came under increasingly intense pressure to quit due to his repeated refusals to explain his use of public funds, which included buying comic books for his children.
He quit hours before a no-confidence vote was scheduled in the Tokyo assembly, as his position had become untenable.
Officials from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) met with him and called for his resignation, fearing a voter backlash at an Upper House election next month should he stay in office.
Masuzoe's refusal to explain his spending fuelled anger among Tokyo voters, who have bombarded the government with thousands of complaints. Opinion polls found a vast majority calling for his head.
"He really took his time about quitting, it was definitely a minus for Tokyo," one woman told NHK national television.
"Taking up so much time with this thing rather than real issues hasn't been good for the city."
Masuzoe's resignation takes effect on June 21, with an election for his successor likely on either July 31 or August 7.
Masuzoe on Monday pledged to return his salary and begged that the no-confidence vote be postponed until after the Rio Olympics end on August 22, when the Olympic flag will be transferred to Tokyo as host of the next games.
"It's not that I want to cling to the governor's chair, but having an election at the same time as the Rio Olympics would be bad for Tokyo as the next host city," he said.
The resignation of Masuzoe's predecessor Naoki Inose slowed preparations for the Olympics, but Tokyo 2020 officials said earlier this week that Masuzoe's woes were having no impact.
But planning has been hit by troubles including scrapping plans for the main stadium and plagiarism allegations, forcing them to abandon their original games logo.
Tokyo's bid has also come under scrutiny after questions were raised about payments by the bid committee.
(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)