Fear of invalidation of election…Kenya Akiba, Minister of Reconstruction, alleged to have “bribed campaign workers”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Fear of invalidation of election…Kenya Akiba, Minister of Reconstruction, alleged to have “bribed campaign workers”.

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Reconstruction Minister Akiba is in the middle of a controversy over politics and money (Photo by Kyodo News)

Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba, 60, is in the middle of a dispute over politics and money. On November 17, Mr. N, the first secretary to the minister, told FRIDAY Digital the following.

–In last year’s lower house election, did Mr. N go around to his supporters and supporting companies to urge them to vote for Mr. Akiba?

Yes, to the extent that I could, I did so as a secretary.

–You mean you campaigned for Mr. Akiba to ask for his support?

Yes, I did.

–You made such movements over the 12 days of the election period.

Yes, I did.

You campaigned for Mr. Akiba’s election to the House of Representatives in 2021. This exchange, which sounds natural for a public secretary (who actually lost his job when the House of Representatives was dissolved), may in fact be an admission of wrongdoing and a “confession. Before examining this, let us first review the political situation surrounding Mr. Akiba.

On November 20, after a series of reports in the Shukan Bunshun brought to light a series of problems surrounding political funds and election campaigns, Minoru Terada, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, submitted a letter of resignation to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The “resignation domino” of cabinet ministers, which had been a concern of the Kishida administration, has accelerated, and Mr. Akiba has been regarded as one of the pieces of the domino.

This magazine has reported that a political party branch headed by Akiba donated 6 million yen to his brother-in-law’s political organization, whose activities are still unclear, and that several of Akiba’s political organizations paid a total of 14.14 million yen in office rent to his wife and his mother.

When opposition lawmakers raised these allegations at a meeting of the Budget Committee of the extraordinary Diet session that opened in October, Akiba refused to face them head-on, saying that he was unaware of the allegations because they related to other organizations and that his mother was a different persona. The opposition is not convinced by Mr. Akiba’s explanations, and the allegations continue to smolder.

Amid the intense scrutiny of Akiba’s finances, this magazine focused on the “Election Campaign Expenses Income and Expenditure Report” for the Lower House election held last year. The report lists the funds collected for the campaign and how they were used. In Akiba’s case, it shows that he collected 16.4 million yen in donations from the political party branch he represents and support groups, of which he spent 6.09 million yen.

The first item that stands out is the 720,000 yen paid to a business in Sendai City to cover the cost of posting. According to the Public Offices Election Law, candidates are allowed to distribute printed materials to voters during the election period.

According to the Election Law, candidates are allowed to distribute leaflets and postcards that have been submitted in advance to the Election Administration Commission (Election Commission). When distributing leaflets, newspaper inserts may be used, and they may be distributed only at election offices, private speech sites, and street speech sites. In addition, when distributing postcards, it is stipulated that post offices must be used. Therefore, it is not allowed to distribute leaflets or postcards by posting or direct mail, which is directly to voters’ home mailboxes. However, when determining illegality, it is necessary to take into account the specific circumstances, such as what was posted and in what areas,” said the Election Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Although it is not clear from the income and expenditure report what Akiba’s side specifically posted, it is clearly stated that the expenditures were for the election campaign. This raises the possibility that Akiba may have committed fraud by posting leaflets or postcards calling for votes.

Akiba, who once served as an aide to former Prime Minister Abe

There are still more suspicious expenditures. These are the 120,000 yen paid to Mr. N as compensation for his campaign and the 80,000 yen paid to Mr. I. Mr. N was the first secretary of Akiba’s office mentioned at the beginning of this report. Mr. N is the first public secretary of Akiba’s office, and Mr. I is the second public secretary.

The Public Election Law limits the scope of campaign workers who can be paid remuneration. Specifically, clerks, motorists (so-called “uguisu”), sign language interpreters, and laborers, etc., cannot be paid compensation to ordinary campaign workers who are not engaged in such work.

The Public Election Law says that clerks generally prepare documents that need to be filed with the election office, sort out receipts, input various data using a computer, and serve tea to visitors. The laborers are also those who put up posters under the direction of the election office, and their role is clearly different from that of ordinary campaign workers who call for votes for candidates on the streets,” said a veteran secretary of the LDP.

If the statements in the income and expenditure report are true, the two secretaries, who were paid for their campaign work, were engaged in this kind of simple work during the election period.

The secretaries are supposed to work with the candidates and ask voters to cast their ballots. It is impossible for them to be in the office fetching tea and not campaigning. If I saw such a secretary, I would want to say a word of complaint, ‘What are you doing?

The following exchange took place between the two secretaries to confirm what kind of activities the N secretaries actually engaged in during the last year’s election. He also said that secretary I had also been campaigning.

–During last year’s lower house election, were you involved in activities such as going around to companies that supported Mr. Akiba and working with prefectural and city assembly members to encourage their supporters to vote for him?

Well, yes.”

–Did you also take to the streets?

Of course, yes, I did.

–Did you call for support for Mr. Akiba on the streets?

Yes, that’s what I mean.

–In the case of the House of Representatives election, the election period lasts for 12 days.

Yes, that’s right. Yes, I am sure of that.

Hiroyuki Kamiwaki, a professor at Kobe Gakuin University and an expert on the Public Election Law, pointed out the following.

If what N. and I. said is true, it would be a form of mobilization bribery, and the secretaries who received the money could be charged with bribery. The penalty is imprisonment or imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.”

According to the income and expenditure report, secretary N is also the treasurer responsible for accounting for the campaign.

According to the income and expenditure report, Secretary N is also the treasurer of the campaign. “The treasurer may be charged with bribery, which carries heavier penalties of up to four years in prison or imprisonment, or a fine of up to one million yen. The penalty will be imprisonment or imprisonment for not more than four years or a fine of not more than one million yen. This also applies to the candidate, Mr. Akiba himself. Even if Mr. Akiba is not charged with a crime, his election may be invalidated if the treasurer and others are found to have violated the law and if a joint sitting system is applied,” he said.

The ones making it are Akiba himself and his wife.”

Despite the possibility of such criminal charges, the secretaries readily admitted the reality of the campaign. However, Secretary N, who is also the treasurer, should have understood the seriousness of his statement. When we further interviewed the secretaries, several people involved in the Akiba office revealed the following facts.

Mr. and Mrs. Akiba are the ones who actually make the income and expenditure reports at the Akiba office. Until Mr. Akiba was a prefectural assembly member, his secretary W (now retired) prepared the reports, but after he became a member of the National Diet, Mr. and Mrs. Akiba began to handle them.

The secretary’s name is written and stamped in the column for the person in charge of accounting on the income and expenditure reports submitted to the election authorities, but that is just Mr. and Mrs. Akiba using the name without permission. Sometimes the secretary’s seal is taken from the desk in the office and stamped without permission. The secretary, who is in charge of accounting, is only asked to confirm the income and expenditure report when it is completed, but never checks the details of the income and expenditure in detail.”

This raises the following question. Did the N secretaries really know that they had been paid for their campaign? We asked the N secretaries again.

–Did you compile the campaign expense reports for last year’s lower house election?

Yes, I always submit them to the Election Commission, yes.

–Who prepared the income and expenditure report instead of submitting it?

I’m sorry, I can’t answer that question. I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry, but–” “Then it wasn’t Mr. N who prepared it?

Um, it was not me, yes.

–In a recent interview, he explained that he was involved in the campaign for last year’s lower house election. On the other hand, Mr. N and his colleague, Mr. I, were paid. Do you know about this?

Ummm, I know, yes.”

–Is it 120,000 yen that was paid to Mr. N?

I’m sorry, I can’t tell you how much. I received it.

–If that is the case, the series of money exchanges may be considered mobilization bribery.

mobilization bribery: ……

–Basically, campaign workers are not allowed to be paid.

Hmmm.” I am sorry, I think it is difficult for me to talk to you about that.”

Secretary N was at a loss for an answer. We again asked Akiba’s office in writing about the allegations of bribing mobilizers, the actual preparation of the income and expenditure report, and the details of the posting fee, but received no response within the deadline.

The Kishida cabinet is reportedly considering an early reshuffle as a last-ditch effort to break the “resignation domino. Before saving his own skin, Kishida must face the allegations of politics and money squarely.

  • Interview and text by Naoyuki Miyashita (nonfiction) Naoyuki Miyashita (nonfiction writer)

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