Same-name candidates defy confusion to win Japan local poll

A huge wall of Democratic Party of Japan candidate campaign posters in Roppongi, Tokyo, 30 August 2009. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Candidates' faces can be well-known - but voters must write down a name

Two candidates with identical names have defied voter confusion to both win election to Karatsu city council in southern Japan.

Both men are named Shigeru Aoki. There can be many ways to write a name in Japanese with the same pronunciation, but in this case the pair use the same Chinese characters, or kanji.

They could not even be distinguished by party, since both ran as independents.

Votes are cast by writing the candidate's name on a ballot paper.

One Shigeru Aoki was an older incumbent and the other a younger newcomer. Election officials asked voters to add their preferred candidate's age, or the words "incumbent" or "challenger" to their ballots to clarify their choice.

Image copyright Twitter: @N3fxC
Image caption The candidates' posters displayed their ages and whether they were new or incumbent

Officials were also allowed to accept other clearly distinguishing observations.

But subjective opinions, like "the better-looking one", were not acceptable, Kyodo news reported.

Ballots with unclear distinctions or none were divided between the two Aokis in proportion to their clearly identifiable vote totals.

To help voters, candidate lists at registration tables in polling stations displayed each candidate's age and whether they were currently in office or not.

The men were among 32 candidates running for 30 seats. Some worried the fuss over the name issue might hurt other candidates, who might have received less attention as a result.

Challenger Mr Aoki acknowledged that the issue had made him better known, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

The pair - both originally from the construction trade - had similar policy platforms too.

Both wanted greater self-sufficiency for the port city, which is famous for its castle and summer festival but somewhat faded since its heyday as a major trading gateway to Korea and China hundreds of years ago.

Japanese media reported it is not the first time this situation has occurred, with one of the most recent cases being another city assembly battle, in 2003 in Naruto, about 70km (40 miles) from Tokyo.

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