TOKYO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - A candidate backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won Sunday's election for governor of Tokyo, media said, frustrating a key rival's efforts to make the vote a referendum on the Japanese leader's pro-nuclear energy policy nearly three years after the Fukushima disaster.
The widely expected victory by former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe comes as a relief for Abe, who had suffered a rare setback in another local election last month. Masuzoe, 65, backed by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, was the winner by a wide margin, according to media exit polls.
Masuzoe's most prominent rival was former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 76, who came out of retirement to run and - with support from charismatic ex-premier Junichiro Koizumi - had put opposition to atomic energy at the core of his platform in the race to lead the capital city of 13.3 million people. (Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by William Mallard)