Prosecutors Search Koto Ward Mayor’s Office Over Paid Internet Ad During Campaign

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Koto Ward Mayor Yayoi Kimura speaks at a press conference in August.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office searched the office of Koto Ward Mayor Yayoi Kimura and other locations on Tuesday on suspicion of a violation of the Public Offices Election Law, alleging that her staff ran a paid internet ad calling for votes during mayoral election campaigning in April.

The law prohibits paid internet advertising for election campaign purposes. Kimura, who ran as an independent, was elected in a four-way race between first-time candidates. Residents in the ward and others later filed a criminal complaint against her on suspicion of the violation of the law.

After the criminal complaint was filed, the special investigation squad questioned Kimura, 58, on a voluntary basis. The squad is expected to analyze documents and other materials seized in the search to uncover the truth.

At a press conference in August, Kimura admitted that staff from a political organization that supports her had posted a paid video ad on a video-sharing website calling for votes for her in the mayoral election. According to Kimura’s side, the ad had Kimura’s photo and a statement that read, “Please vote for Yayoi Kimura.” The ad was viewed about 380,000 times. The cost of about ¥140,000 was reportedly paid with Kimura’s credit card.

At the press conference, Kimura’s side explained that a staff member of the political organization approached her in early April, telling her that online campaigning would be effective and that she replied, “Do it right.” Kimura apologized at the press conference, saying that she had failed to exercise proper supervision.

The revised Public Offices Election Law, which went into effect in 2013, lifted a ban on internet-based campaigning. To ensure fair elections that are not influenced by economic resources, however, the law prohibits paid advertisements showing candidates’ names and other information. Violators are subject to imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of up to ¥500,000.

After working as a nurse, Kimura, who is from Koto Ward, ran in the House of Representatives election in 2014 on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket and was elected for the first time in the northern Kanto bloc of the proportional representation section.

She was reelected to the lower house in 2017 and served as parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications. She lost in the 2021 lower house election.