Want to be the next political leader in Japan? We hope you’ve got deep pockets!
It was revealed by internet-condensing extraordinaire Naver this week that, in order to put themselves forward for election, aspiring political leaders much first make a mandatory deposit of six million yen (77,000 US dollars / 59,000 euros) into the legal system, making Japan the most expensive country in the world to announce one’s candidacy.
For those of us not so well-versed in the ins and outs of the world’s political systems and looking for a frame of reference on which to judge the, admittedly hefty, sum required to stand for election, let’s take a look at roughly how much it costs to run for election in a few other countries:
Politicians in Japan’s nearest neighbour South Korea are required to cough up a sizable, though not unreasonable when compared to the Japanese system, 20,000 US dollars in order to play the political game. In Canada, candidates are expected to pay just over 900 US dollars to make their voice heard, meanwhile British legal representatives must hand over just 800 US dollars before they can don their sash and pick up a megaphone.
Other countries, including the US, Germany and France, meanwhile, require no deposit whatsoever to put oneself forward for election.
The Japanese government maintains that the deposit is required for multiple reasons, one of which being “to defend against bogus or insincere campaigns”, and that the deposit system was implemented in 1925 to mirror that which the British legal had in place since years before. But, costing candidate hopefuls multiple times the amount required to stand for election in the UK, it would seem that something is amiss here…
Despite being taken to the Japanese Supreme Court, the case to eradicate the obligatory deposit system on the grounds of its seemingly unconstitutional nature was dismissed in 2009, leaving those in the running with no option but to find the cash or sit out entirely. With the compulsory deposit set so high, many Japanese believe that the average citizen loses the right to take part in the election, thus leaving political matters entirely in the hands of the wealthy. Regardless, little seems to be being done to change the system at this point.
But let’s suppose that John Smith, or perhaps Joe or Jane Suzuki, finds a pile of cash in a hedgerow somewhere and is able to put himself forward as an officially recognized candidate. After the election he’ll receive his deposit back, right?
“The candidate may receive his or her money back at a later date, provided that they receive a pre-determined number of votes in the election,” quotes Naver.
That’s right; if a candidate is unable to win over the hearts and minds of enough voters, they can wave goodbye to their cash. If they wish to run again in the future, it’ll be another six million yen.
Perhaps we should start passing a hat around sooner rather than later…