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Voter turnout in Japan's unified local elections marks record lows in cities

A voter casts a ballot in this file photo. (Mainichi/Yoshihiro Tanaka)

TOKYO -- Average voter turnout sank to record lows for both mayoral and local assembly elections in cities across Japan on April 21, pointing to a lack of public interest in voting.

Figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on April 22 showed that the average voting rate for mayoral elections in 59 cities fell 3.03 percentage points from the previous nationwide elections in 2015 to stand at 47.5%. It was the first time for the turnout to fall below the midway mark.

In local assembly elections, meanwhile, voter participation in 283 cities dipped to 45.57% -- also a record low. It was the second time in a row for the voting rate in city assembly elections to fall below 50%, after a mark of 48.62% was seen in 2015.

Also marking a record low in voter attendance were the 20 special wards of Tokyo, where local assembly elections were held. The wards saw an average turnout of 42.63%, down 0.18 percentage points from the 2015 elections. Voting to elect mayors of towns and villages marked a record low participation of 65.23% (down 3.84 percentage points), while 282 towns and villages saw a record low turnout in assembly elections of 59.7 percent (down 4.64 percentage points).

For the second time in a row, average turnout for mayoral elections in towns and villages sank below 70 percent. Meanwhile attendance at assembly elections in the 282 towns and villages fell below 60 percent for the first time. In only 11 wards, participation in voting did not sink to record lows. But the average for these wards was still low, at 44.21 percent, just 0.1 of a percentage point above the corresponding figure for 2015.

The voter turnout for the first round of this year's elections, held on April 7, reached an average of 44.02 percent in 41 prefectural assembly elections, 50.86 percent in mayoral elections for six major ordinance-designated cities, and 43.28 percent in assembly elections for 17 ordinance-designated cities.

Separately, data collated by the Mainichi Shimbun showed that the number of women elected to city assemblies in the latest round of elections reached 1,239 -- six more than the number in the 2003 polls -- marking a record high. The percentage of women who won the seats at stake rose 2.3 points from the last elections in 2015, to reach a record high of 18.4%.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Wada, Integrated Digital News Center)

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