• Kyodo


The Dec. 14 Lower House snap election is posing a headache for municipalities nationwide planning to organize annual festivals and sports events.

They are being dealt with a double punch — while they need to secure staff enough to manage those events, the municipalities are also required to oversee the national election.

In Ako, Hyogo Prefecture, every Dec. 14 is the day for the city’s Ako Gishi Festival, which has been held to glorify Ako’s famous 47 Ronin — a tale of clansmen who took their revenge on an a court official in Edo in 1703 after their lord was forced to perform harakiri.

Some 200 municipal employees are mobilized to help regulate spectators of the main parade by actors and citizens dressed as feudal clansmen.

At the same time, the city employees need to oversee the Lower House poll at a total of 22 polling stations in the city, which is expected to require the participation of a quarter of the city’s 1,400 employees.

Counting votes may drag into midnight at some polling stations, and “we are having a headache over how to secure staff,” said an Ako official in charge of the election. The city plans to ask teachers of its public kindergartens to make up for the staff shortage, he said.

Meanwhile in Nara, a major marathon event is scheduled Dec. 14. The Nara Marathon this year, in which some 19,000 runners are expected to take part, is the fifth since it began in 2010.

Municipal governments of Nara and nearby Tenri, as well as the Nara Prefectural Government, had initially planned to mobilize a combined 420 employees to regulate the sports event. But some 100 may need to be relocated at polling stations.

Nara Gov. Shogo Arai, who chairs the organizing committee of the Nara Marathon, told a recent meeting, “We need to hold the event in the way that it won’t interfere with the voting, which is the people’s right.”

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