The 54% of Tokyo’s ten million registered voters who bothered to go to the polls have spoken: Shintarou Ishihara has been reelected as governor of Tokyo with 51% of the vote, about 2.8 million voters. Ishihara, an independent supported by Japan’s powerful Liberal Democratic Party, beat his nearest rival by a comfortable 20% of the vote.
The “revolutionary” candidate Kouichi Toyama (video), who used his official speech to advocate overthrow of the Japanese government, ended up in 8th place out of the 14 on the ballot, with 0.27% of the vote (given the size of Tokyo, that works out to a respectable 15,059 votes). Unfortunately for him, that also means that the election cost him (as well as every candidate other than the top three) a hefty 3 million yen.
How does this work?
To be listed on the ballot, each candidate must pay a fee to the election commission. If they are elected or at least manage to get a respectable percentage of the vote, the fee is returned to them. If not, tough luck.
It’s been said that England originated the idea for this sort of fee-based system as a way to control the proliferation of people using elections as a publicity stunt or other self-serving goals. The logic behind it is that if you’re serious about entering politics, you should put some money where your mouth is. Fees that aren’t returned end up in government coffers.
In Japan, getting on the ballot doesn’t come cheap, either. The fee to run for governor is a whopping 3 million yen (about US$25K), which you get back if you manage to garner at least 10% of the vote. Want to try out for the house of representatives? That can go as high as 6 million yen (US$50K), depending on the district. Mayor of a city is somewhat more affordable, at 500,000 yen (US$4,000).
The system is not without critics, however. As illustrated by the herd of candidates in this year’s race for Tokyo Governor, even these entry fees don’t work that well to stop fame-seekers. Further, these fees may well go against the Japanese constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, belief, gender, social standing, family origin, education, wealth, or income. Detractors of the fees argue that it is a form of discriminating on the basis of wealth.
Japan isn’t the only country to try this system; France, for example, required a fee of about US$200 to run for national office, but the unpopular fees were repealed in 1995. Other examples are England, in which some elections require a deposit of around US$900, Canada at around US$700, and Korea about US$13,000.
As for Toyama,he couldn’t come up with the 3 million yen himself, so he borrowed it from a friend. He never expected to get it back, so according to a ZakZak article (J) he figures that with his 2 million yen (US$17K) annual income as a street musician it’ll take him about six years to pay back the loan.
He’s apparently quite satisfied with the results, though—the publicity generated by his outrageous speech was easily worth the cost to him.