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Japan PM Kishida's use of charter flights to election rallies hints at desperation

A charter flight carrying Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is seen taking off from Odate-Noshiro Airport in the city of Kitaakita on Oct. 28, 2021. (Mainichi/Shun Kawaguchi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took charter flights to give House of Representatives election speeches across the Tohoku, Hokuriku and Shikoku regions in northeastern, central and western Japan, respectively, on Oct. 28, ahead of the Oct. 31 election.

    It's the first time since August 2009 that a prime minister who is also president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has used charter flights for campaign activities, when then Prime Minister Taro Aso was fighting a House of Representatives election. Amid an increase in closely contested constituencies across Japan, the usage of the flights appears to show Prime Minister Kishida's desperation to hold numerous rallies.

    On the morning of Oct. 28, Kishida departed the dormitory for lower house lawmakers in Akasaka, Tokyo, and headed to Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, where he gave an election speech. This was followed by a sequence of similar appearances in the prefectures of Akita, Niigata, Ishikawa and Kagawa.

    Although Kishida did travel by car from the city of Aomori to the Akita Prefecture city of Odate, his transit after that utilized chartered All Nippon Airways flights. At Odate, Kishida told the audience: "I'd like all of you to lift us up through this fierce (election) battle. It is with this conviction that I've rushed to be here."

    Until Oct. 27, Kishida was using scheduled flights leaving from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to reach campaign engagements, with his movements after the flights involving travel by train, car and other means. With the election campaign reaching its final stage, it appears that he used chartered flights as a last resort to minimize traveling times.

    An LDP source told the Mainichi Shimbun: "Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went into many elections with the wind in his sails. If we don't use charter flights this time, we won't be able to go to all of the closely contested districts."

    According to the Mainichi Shimbun's "prime minister's daily schedule," which reports the daily movements of the national leader, charter flights were used by then LDP Prime Minister Aso for the August 2009 lower house election, and by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan in the July 2010 House of Councillors election. Both of these elections were lost by the ruling party of the day.

    (Japanese original by Shun Kawaguchi, Political News Department)

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