THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
July 17, 2019 at 14:20 JST
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged mothers and fathers to bring their current and former lovers to the polling booths, a sign that fatigue may finally be catching up to him on the campaign trail.
Campaigning for the July 21 Upper House election has entered the home stretch. Since campaigning officially began on July 4, Abe has been catching planes and bullet trains to various parts of Japan to speak on behalf of candidates for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
On July 16, Abe spoke at a number of locations in Niigata Prefecture and touched upon the importance of early voting.
At two stops, Abe called out to fathers in the crowd: “Please invite your girlfriend to go with you.”
It was not clear what Abe meant, and his comments may have been a slip of the tongue.
At the start of the campaign, Abe consistently closed his speeches with appeals to the crowds to take the opportunity to vote early and to get in touch with past acquaintances to raise the turnout rate.
But until July 16, he had never suggested arranging extramarital dates to cast ballots.
When he spoke in Joetsu, he addressed the mothers in the crowd.
“I hope you look up an old boyfriend and go to early voting,” the prime minister said.
Dates of a different nature proved problematic in other speeches by Abe in Niigata Prefecture.
To prop up the hotel industry in Niigata and Yamagata prefectures, which were hit by an earthquake on June 18, the government is planning a program to subsidize discounts of 3,000 yen ($28) per tourist.
But in his first speech on July 16 in Joetsu, Abe said, “The central government will take responsibility for the 3,000 yen discount for all visitors who come to Niigata Prefecture from today.”
The program does not begin until July 19.
At his next speech, Abe got the date right, saying the discount would start on Friday.
But in the following speech, he again mixed up the dates, saying the discount would begin on Friday at one point, only to say it would start on Saturday at another.
In his final speech in Niigata Prefecture, Abe never mentioned the date, saying only that the discount system would be implemented.
During earlier campaigning, Abe mentioned the discount program on July 5, four days before the official announcement by Keiichi Ishii, the tourism minister.
Some critics said Abe’s early announcement was intended to give the LDP candidate in Niigata Prefecture an advantage in what has been a tight race against a candidate backed by the opposition bloc.
The prime minister also appeared to jump the gun regarding increased landing slots at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido to accommodate the growing number of foreign tourists to the main northern island.
In a speech on behalf of an LDP candidate, Abe said on July 15 that the number of arrivals and departures would be increased by 20 percent.
Ishii made the formal announcement the following day.
The tourism minister tried to deny any political connection with Abe’s announcement, saying it was pure coincidence it came during the Upper House election campaign.
(Ryutaro Abe and Naoyuki Takahashi contributed to this article.)
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