Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must have had to laugh under his mask at a November 25 meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives. When asked about his opinion on the fact that Reconstruction Minister Kenya Akiba (60) had his secretary work as a campaign worker (so-called “uguisu”) on his car during last year’s lower house election, he replied as follows: “At least, as far as I can remember, I have been working as a campaign worker on a car for the last two years.
He answered, “At least, as far as I can remember, I have never used my own secretary as an activist on a vehicle.
Kishida, who has been elected to the Diet nine times and has been a Diet member for 29 years, said it was unusual for him to have his secretary work as a motorcade campaigner during an election.
In response to a November 25 press conference, Akiba refuted a report in FRIDAY Digital, which claimed that he paid money to two secretaries during last year’s lower house election, calling it “mobilization bribery. At that time, he revealed that the money paid to the two secretaries was not compensation for campaigning, but rather compensation for their work as motorcade workers as allowed under the Public Offices Election Law. The explanation that the secretaries acted as motorcade workers was unnatural from the point of view of a person who knows the practicalities of election campaigns, but it was also something that was certainly allowed under the law,” said a reporter from the political section of a national newspaper.
At the same press conference, Akiba also pointed out that the article in this magazine “contains a considerable amount of information based on factual errors. Although Mr. Akiba has denied all allegations of bribing mobilizers, this magazine was able to obtain new testimony that contradicts his explanation. Before questioning the veracity of his denial, we would like to point out some of the “lies” that have been spread throughout Akiba’s statements up to this point.
There was even an “Akiba No. 4.
At the November 25 meeting of the Budget Committee, in addition to the allegation of bribing a campaign mobilizer, the committee also discussed the fact that a political party branch headed by Akiba had paid membership fees to an organization friendly to the former Unification Church and that Akiba’s “shadow warriors” had conducted his election campaign,” said the same former member.
The allegation that Akiba’s second son was wearing a sash with Akiba’s name on it during his street activities in last year’s lower house election may have violated the Public Election Law. Regarding the man in the photo shown by the opposition lawmakers, Akiba admitted that he is his second son and said, “I think it is safe to say that there is no other (shadow warriors). However, a former supporter of Mr. Akiba’s said, “Mr. Akiba is a man who has been a shadow warrior in the election.
It has been well known since he was a member of the prefectural assembly that Mr. Akiba uses Kagemusha in elections. When he was a member of the prefectural assembly, his shadow warrior was his own brother. After that, he and his younger brother fell out, and around 2005, when he was first elected to the House of Representatives, he was no longer seen helping Mr. Akiba with his elections.”
When he could no longer get his brother’s cooperation, Mr. Akiba came up with a new method.
He asked people in the supporters’ association who wore glasses like Mr. Akiba to dress up as “Akiba No. 2. He had Akiba No. 2 wave to voters from the passenger seat of his campaign car. Mr. Akiba is nearly 6 feet tall, but his height is not noticeable from the outside once he is in the campaign car. Therefore, he was eligible to be No. 2 as long as he was not extremely overweight. Akiba No. 2 would ride in the campaign car when Mr. Akiba himself was giving a private speech indoors or resting at home. As far as I remember, there was at least Akiba No. 4.
Akiba’s “Lies” in the Diet
Akiba’s next “lie” was the aforementioned statement he made during his press conference on November 25. At the press conference, Mr. Akiba pointed out that there was a problem in the way he interviewed his secretary in the course of this magazine’s coverage of the mobilization bribery scandal. The following is a direct quote from Akiba’s statement.
With regard to the activities of my secretary, because she was interviewed by phone on short notice during the night last week, she seemed to have confused the political activities she had been engaged in before the election period and the campaign activities she had been engaged in on days during the election period when she was not paid as a motorcade worker with the activities she had been engaged in as a motorcade worker when she was paid, and gave inaccurate answers. The secretary gave an inaccurate answer.
Is that really the case? The author interviewed Mr. N, Akiba’s first secretary, and Mr. I, his second secretary. The following is a “careful explanation” of the process.
First, the author waited for the secretaries to return from their outings on the street in front of Akiba’s office in Sendai City. When the author introduced himself by presenting his business card, the secretary returned to the car to get his own card, and they exchanged greetings again. When the author mentioned that he had interviewed Ms. Akiba for FRIDAY several times, the secretary laughed and said, “Yes, it’s you, isn’t it?
The secretary I initially told the author , “It’s not right to say different things to different people, so in a manner of speaking, N is handling (PR) for the mass media. So I don’t have anything to say. In response, I asked him if he could confirm the facts about last year’s lower house election, to which his secretary I responded, “I was campaigning for 12 days during the lower house election.
Was he really “upset”?
After this exchange, we also asked for an interview with Secretary N, who was in charge of public relations, and Secretary I contacted Secretary N to confirm his schedule for that day. The I secretary then handed me a sticky note with the N secretary’s cell phone number on it, saying that she would not be returning to the office today and that I should call her if there were any problems.
Thus, within 10 minutes after finishing the communication with Secretary I, the author called Secretary N. In other words, the N secretary was able to anticipate the call from the author. In addition, he must have heard about the purpose of the call from Secretary I to some extent. Therefore, Mr. Akiba’s explanation that he was “upset” and gave a false report because he “received a sudden phone call at night,” is considered to be a “factual error.
In the aforementioned Budget Committee meeting, Mr. Akiba made a noteworthy statement regarding the alleged bribery of mobilizers, which he went to such lengths to cover up. I quote it verbatim.
(Regarding the amount of compensation for the motorcade campaigners,) it was indicated that 120,000 yen was paid to Secretary N, and 80,000 yen to Secretary I. (Omitted) Well, I have no specifics. (Omitted) Well, to be more specific, Secretary N worked as a campaign worker for 8 days and Secretary I worked as a campaign worker for 6 days, and we are aware that they are conducting their activities legally and in accordance with the law.
During the 12-day election period, each of the two secretaries clearly stated the number of days they had worked as campaign workers on the car. In light of this statement, this magazine interviewed Mr. A, who served as a motorcade campaign worker for Akiba’s office during last year’s lower house election. The series of exchanges took place over the intercom at Ms. A’s home.
Secretaries were “never” in the campaign car
–During last year’s lower house election, did Mr. A work as a campaigner on the car, or in other words, as a “nightingale”?
Yes, probably for about ● days.
–When Mr. A was riding in the campaign car, were Mr. N and Mr. I from the Akiba office with him?
No, the secretary was in the car, going to a speech meeting or to prepare the venue, so she was not there.
The reason for withholding the number of days Mr. A was active as a campaign worker on the car is to avoid identification of the source of the interview. Verification of the number of days of activity will be made in a later section.
It should also be noted that Ms. A herself referred to them as “secretaries” in response to a question from this magazine in which she mentioned the names of Mr. N and Mr. I. Before this question, Ms. A had not been involved in any activities as a campaigner on the car. Even before asking this question, the magazine did not describe Mr. N. and Mr. I. as secretaries. In other words, Ms. A was well aware of both Mr. N and Mr. I, and knew who they were just by hearing their names. Therefore, there is no possibility that he was mistaken for someone else when he answered the following questions.
–Did you and Mr. N ride in the campaign car together at one time and not at another time?
A–“Basically, the secretary was separate [from the campaign car]. I was driving my own car.”
–For example, did Mr. N and the others ever lead the campaign car and work together?
I don’t remember that. Basically, the election car had a driver (so there was no need for the secretary to accompany the car). We didn’t have anything like that.”
–So there was never a day when Mr. N and the others rode in the campaign car?
No, not on the days I was there.
–Did you ever see Mr. N and the others making announcements calling for people to vote?
–Did Mr. N and Mr. I, apart from Mr. A and the other campaign workers on the car, set up the venue for the individual speeches and street speeches and manage those events?
Yes, they did.
–During the days that you worked as a campaigner on the car, from what time to what time did you work?
From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
–Did you work on that schedule for all of those days?
Yes, I did.
–During the three days that Mr. A worked as a campaign worker, did Mr. N and Mr. I ever ride in the campaign car with you?
No, they never rode in the campaign car for a single day. They were in their own car the whole time.
There is no other way but to remove them from office.
Incidentally, only one campaign car may be used per candidate. This is clearly stated in Article 141, Paragraph 1 of the Public Election Law,” said the Miyagi Prefecture Election Administration Committee Secretariat.
Although we have so far withheld the number of days Ms. A was active, we can assume from the election campaign expense reports and interviews with Ms. A that all of the motorcade workers paid by the Akiba office in last year’s lower house election were active for at least six days.
Let us assume, then, according to Ms. A’s testimony, that the N secretaries did not work as car-top campaigners for six days. In that case, even if the N secretaries were active as campaign workers, they would only have worked as campaign workers for a maximum of six days, since the election period lasts for 12 days.
At this point, we would like to recall Mr. Akiba’s statement at the Budget Committee. According to Mr. Akiba, the number of days that Secretary N worked as a motorcade worker was eight days. This contradicts Mr. A’s testimony. Mr. Akiba’s rebuttal to the “campaign staff bribe report” in this magazine contains a clear “lie.
We wrote to Mr. Akiba’s office asking for his opinion on the discrepancy between “Akiba No. 2” and the number of days his secretary worked as a campaign worker on the car, but received no response by the deadline. We believe that Mr. Akiba is no longer capable of providing a “detailed explanation.
Interview and text by： Naoyuki Miyashita (nonfiction writer) Photo by： Kyodo News