Japanese Lawmaker Elected on Platform of "Crushing" Public Broadcaster NHK

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Tokyo

Two members of a new party led by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto, dubbed "Japan's Bernie Sanders," were also elected.

The leader of a party opposed to Japan's public broadcaster NHK won a seat in Sunday's upper house elections, to the surprise of everyone, including the newly elected lawmaker. Meanwhile, a former actor missed out, but his new party won two seats.

Takashi Tachibana, leader of the Protect the People from NHK Party (NHK Kara Kokumin O Mamoru To) won almost a million votes in the proportional representation block of the election.

A former employee of NHK, Tachibana looked shocked during an appearance on an Asahi TV election program when told his party, whose platform includes the promise of “crushing” NHK, might win a seat.

The anti-NHK party was seen by many as a fringe political joke, with one of its 41 candidates appearing in a political party broadcast with a foam strawberry around his head. Tachibana's own campaigning video, which NHK had to run as a public broadcaster, contained no less than nine references to "car-sex adultery" between employees.

Tachibana alleges that NHK has been covering up a case of automotive-based fornication between one of its presenters and another staffer for three years. He also claims he had to leave the organization, officially called Japan Broadcasting Corporation in English, because he was a whistle-blower over improper accounting.

NHK is funded by a fee, which amounts to $130 (13,990 yen) annually, that must be paid by everyone who owns a device capable of receiving its broadcasts. It has caused controversy in recent years by taking viewers to court and insisting the fee must be paid by people who own computers, mobile phones or car navigation systems, which have TV antennae. The percentage of people paying the fee has increased in recent years after years of falling.

Other than a deep-seated resentment of NHK, which he says should be "crushed," it is currently unclear what Tachibana's other policy positions may be.

Actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto lost his seat in the upper house, coming in just behind Tachibana, but two members of his new, left-leaning Reiwa Shinsengumi party, were elected. The two, who both use wheelchairs, will become the first nationally elected politicians with serious physical impairments. Reiwa is the name of the new imperial era, which began in May, while Shinsengumi was a special police force from the 19th century. Yamamoto appeared in a historical drama on NHK about them (Shinsengumi!) in 2004, as well as in films including Battle Royale.

He entered politics on an anti-nuclear platform after the nuclear accident at Fukushima caused by a giant tsunami in 2011. His anti-establishment stance, concern for the marginalized and attacks on vested interests have seen him dubbed "Japan's Bernie Sanders" by some commentators.

Against a background of voter apathy, turnout in Sunday's election was below 50 percent, perhaps explaining some of the more unusual results.