[TOKYO] Tokyo's governor is expected to resign 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, has been subject to tough 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.
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 Mr Masuzoe - have agreed to submit a no-confidence motion against him over the scandal.
The motion was to be voted on later Wednesday but the governor has decided to quit before it takes place, public broadcaster NHK, Jiji Press and other media reported.
Reports emerged in April 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.
Mr Masuzoe has denied breaking any laws but has admitted ethical lapses and has repeatedly apologised in an effort to weather the storm.
Tokyo is set to host the 2020 Olympics, and while the drama is unlikely to impact the city's ability to manage the event, Mr Masuzoe's travails are a fresh embarrassment for the scandal-plagued Games.
The spending 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.
The powerful LDP joined calls for Mr 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.
His term as governor runs to 2018, but if he resigns a new governor will be elected to a fresh four-year term.
Editorials in national dailies called for his swift resignation, with the top-selling Yomiuri saying he "shouldn't make meaningless efforts to extend his (political) life" as "doubts about his quality as governor only keep growing".
On assuming office as governor, the telegenic French-speaking Mr Masuzoe - a former health and labour minister - pledged an administration free of money scandals.
He 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.