Ballot boxes, campaign cars in hot demand

Kyodo

Now that the general election has been set for Dec. 16, companies that sell campaign-related equipment are being flooded with calls and orders from municipal election boards as well as the campaign staff of various potential candidates.

“We’ve been receiving calls nonstop from lawmakers’ secretaries,” said Junichi Hidaka, 58, head of Kuruma Kojo, a Yokohama-based car dealer that sells and rents election campaign vehicles.

Hidaka said it has received at least 10 inquiries a day since Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the Lower House on Friday. It has even received calls from the Kansai region, probably due to the influence of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which was founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Hidaka used to run a car repair shop, but about five years ago he shifted his business to equipping, renting and selling campaign vehicles. Such vehicles are equipped with rooftop platforms for candidates to stand on when they address voters and areas to hang campaign posters. They also have loudspeakers, as anyone who has been in Japan for a political campaign can attest.

“Those cars are ready now. I hope candidates who rent them will promise policies that actually appeal to voters and are achievable if they win the race,” Hidaka said.

Mukaida Co., a Shizuoka-based aluminum ware maker, said it has been receiving many inquiries from municipal election boards about ballot boxes.

But because the firm initially assumed the general election would be held early next year, it doesn’t have enough aluminium to meet demand.

“We can’t turn down the orders. We will make (ballot boxes) at a fast pace as soon as we get the necessary materials,” said Hiroshi Mukaida, 42, head of Mukaida Co.

Municipal electoral councils are meanwhile hurriedly preparing for the general election. The western Tokyo suburb of Hachioji — where a “triple election” will take place Dec. 16 — has yet to secure enough manpower for voting stations. Hachioji voters face the general election, the Tokyo gubernatorial race and a by-election for a seat in the metropolitan assembly.