HKT48 singer Rino Sashihara was selected the most popular member of all-girl group AKB48 and its sister groups at the annual AKB48 popularity poll at Fukuoka Yafuoku Dome on Saturday night.
Sashihara, 22, who was transferred to HKT48 after a boyfriend scandal in 2012, got 194,049 votes, Sankei reported. Second was Yuki Kashiwagi with 167,183 votes and third was last year's winner Mayu Watanabe with 165,789 votes. In all, a total of 3,287,736 votes were cast by fans, organizers said.
About 32,000 fans gathered to hear the results of the ballot that decides which member will lead the band for the next year.
Organizers said 272 members of the group were running for the top spot in one of the world's highest grossing acts.
Fans finished voting by Friday for the girl they wanted to lead the collective for the next year, using ballot slips only available with the purchase of their latest single.
AKB48 is part talent show, part pop act -- a venture in which a pool of more than 300 girls and young women at home and overseas compete for a spot in the limelight with each new catchy but formulaic hit.
The popularity of the group -- one of the most successful acts of all time in monetary terms -- is partly built on their accessibility to their legions of fans. They appear at regular events all over the country to shake hands and pose for pictures, as well as on social networking sites.© Japan Today/AFP