Close Cooperation between Police and Politicians is Needed

Election campaign speeches are an important opportunity for politicians to deliver their arguments directly to voters. It is necessary for the police and politicians to consult well in advance and establish a system to protect both freedom of speech and safety at campaign speech venues.

The National Police Agency has compiled a report on security procedures following an incident in which an explosive device was thrown at Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a campaign speech venue in Wakayama City.

The report concluded that there were problems with checks on people in the crowd gathered at the fishing port where the speech was to be held, summarizing that there should have been close consultation between the police and the Wakayama prefectural chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that organized the speech.

According to the report, the Wakayama prefectural police were told by the LDP’s prefectural chapter that the audience would include only members of a fishermen’s cooperative, and that even if nonmembers came, it would be possible to visually identify them. For that reason, the police left audience checks entirely up to the fishermen’s cooperative and metal detectors were not used.

The organizers probably wanted the audience to be close to Kishida as much as possible during his speech, in an atmosphere without strict and elaborate security. As a result, however, a man with explosives was able to enter the venue.

The fact that an incumbent prime minister was attacked less than a year after the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is an extremely serious matter. There is an urgent need to overhaul security procedures.

What is particularly serious is that the NPA had checked the prefectural police’s security plan for the Kishida speech in advance in light of Abe’s fatal shooting. It must be said that the measures to prevent a recurrence did not work.

The police intend to ask political parties to hold campaign speeches indoors if possible, so they can check the names and accreditation of participants, and inspect baggage at entrances as well.

However, some politicians have expressed reluctance, arguing that it is difficult to communicate with independent voters unless they stump on the streets. There also must be many politicians who want to shake hands with voters outdoors.

The police and political parties should share information about such things as the layout of venues and the size of the audience to find the best security methods. Dignitaries such as the prime minister require particularly tight security. It might be worth considering keeping people on the streets a certain distance from politicians and installing bulletproof screens.

In the United States, many campaign speeches are held indoors, and there are thorough baggage checks and screening of attendees, reportedly.

In recent years, schedules for campaign activities have been widely publicized on social media, and many nonlocals have attended speeches. It has become difficult to determine whether attendees are locals with visual checks alone.

Now is an age where the internet contains information on how to make guns and bombs. It is important to go beyond conventional insight to ensure the safety of campaign speech venues, on the assumption that there is always the possibility that dangerous people are in the crowd.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2023)