Undeterred by heavy security and pouring rain, AKB48 fans elected Mayu Watanabe as their favourite member at the popular all-girl group's annual "general election" event held on Saturday.
A total of 296 members of AKB48 and its sister groups declared their candidacies while as many as 2,689,427 votes were cast, up more than 42,000 votes from last year.
The election was held at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, Tokyo, to choose the lead singer for the idol group's next single. Twenty-year-old Watanabe, who ranked third in the event last year, garnered 159,854 votes to win the top position for the first time. Rino Sashihara, who ranked first last year, finished second.
Rina Kawaei, 19, who was assaulted and injured by an armed man at the group's handshaking event on May 25 in Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, ranked 16th to be one of the 16 elite members nominated to sing the group's main songs. Anna Iriyama, 18, who also suffered similar injuries, took a leap from last year and ranked in 20th place.
In the midst of rainfall, the event was held under the protection of many security guards and police officers as a safety precaution following the Takizawa incident.
The event organizer prepared 122 handheld metal detectors and 106 staff members were on hand to check the belongings of fans attending the event. About 50 officers of the Chofu Police Station patrolled the venue to keep an eye out for suspicious items and individuals.