Election Signboards: Actions That Interfere with Elections Cannot Be Allowed

Elections are the foundation of democracy, a process by which the people participate in politics and have their sovereign will reflected. Acts that trifle with elections should not be left unchecked.

Many posters unrelated to candidates have been put up on signboards for the Tokyo gubernatorial election. Some are ads for places of adult entertainment, and election administration committees have been inundated with complaints from voters.

This situation stems from the fact that the NHK Party political organization and affiliated groups fielded 24 individuals in the election and transferred the right to display posters to third parties for a fee.

“Would you like to put up 24 of your original posters?” the NHK Party asked, allowing people to put up posters on one signboard in Tokyo for each donation of ¥25,000.

Election signboards are designed for voters to select who to cast ballots for; they are public property set up with funds from public coffers. It is outrageous to misappropriate the boards as if they were private property and selling the right to display posters apparently to make money.

Of the about 14,000 signboards in Tokyo, the NHK Party reportedly gave away the right to put up posters on about 1,000 of them. Did the organization field as many as 24 affiliated candidates in the election meant to choose a single governor for the purpose of securing a large number of slots on signboards?

Some of the posters were suspected of running afoul of the Adult Entertainment Businesses Law, and the Metropolitan Police Department warned the NHK Party side to remove them. However, there are still many third-party posters on signboards.

The Public Offices Election Law has no provision directly restricting the content of election posters. In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that it was not permissible for election administration committees to ask candidates to remove or modify the content of their posters.

However, the ruling certainly meant that candidates’ political views and assertions should be respected, in order to protect the freedom and fairness of elections. It is against public order and decency for anyone other than candidates to use the signboards as they like. This situation is unacceptable.

The police and administrative bodies should consider whether they can apply restrictions or crack down under current legislation. If that is difficult, the Public Offices Election Law needs to be revised to prohibit the display of posters by noncandidates as well as the transfer of rights to use space on signboards, to prevent a reoccurrence.

It is still fresh in the memory how a candidate of the political group Tsubasa no To and his camp obstructed street speeches by other candidates in the House of Representatives by-election for Tokyo Constituency No. 15 in April. They also posted videos of their acts online.

With the proliferation of social media, a framework has been established in which an increased number of views of video images containing extreme words and deeds can attract people’s attention and generate revenue. In recent years, some candidates have been putting prank-like messages in broadcasts of political views. The fundamental issue is how to stop the deterioration of elections.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2024)