Nippon Ishin lawmaker fined for violating election law

A district court in western Japan has ordered a Lower House member of the opposition Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party to pay a fine of 300,000 yen, or about 2,300 dollars, for violating the Public Offices Election Act.

The Nara District Court handed down the ruling for Maekawa Kiyoshige on Wednesday.

The 60-year-old lawmaker was indicted without arrest for sending documents to many unspecified people in his constituency before official campaigning in a 2021 election. Prosecutors said Maekawa asked the people to vote for him, in violation of the election law.

The recipients had been chosen from an alumni list of his university, and the documents included official campaign postcards and letters asking the recipients to write the names and addresses of acquaintances on the postcards and send them back.

Prosecutors said this amounted to campaigning before the official period.

Maekawa pleaded not guilty, saying he asked the alumni only to write names and addresses on the postcards, and that this was election preparation allowed by law.

The court's presiding judge said only 10 to 20 people among the approximately 2,400 who received the documents responded, adding that the lawmaker can be said to have illegally sent documents to many unspecified people.

If the ruling is finalized, Maekawa will lose his parliamentary seat and his right to be elected to public office will be suspended for five years.

At a news conference after the ruling, Maekawa called the ruling totally unexpected and regrettable, and suggested he will appeal to a higher court.

He also said parliamentary democracy may collapse if a Diet member can lose his position after being arbitrarily and discriminatorily investigated and indicted for a common practice.