Japan politician voted out after accusing mayor of sexual assault

The only female councillor in Kusatsu was removed from office by fellow politicians in the town

by AFP / pic by AFP

TOKYO • The only female councillor in a Japanese town has been voted out of office after accusing the mayor of sexual assault, in a recall organised by colleagues who claimed she had sullied the town’s reputation.

Shoko Arai last November said that the mayor of Kusatsu had “forced (her) into sexual relations” in his office several years prior, allegations he denies.

She made the claims at a press conference, saying she had been too afraid to go to the police immediately after the incident.

Arai, who was Kusatsu’s only female councillor until the vote, last year said 73-year-old Mayor Nobutada Kuroiwa had “suddenly pulled me closer, kissed me and pushed (me) down on the floor” and she “couldn’t push him back”.

Kuroiwa has said the claims were impossible because his office door and curtains were open on the day of the alleged incident. He has filed a defamation complaint with the local police.

Arai was removed from office by fellow politicians in the town, who accused her of “scandalous” remarks that hurt “the dignity” of the council.

That decision was then overturned by regional authorities, but local politicians collected enough signatures from voters to stage a recall vote, public broadcaster NHK said.

A town spokesman told AFP that “2,542 out of 2,835 residents who voted supported the recall”.

Arai, 51, condemned the vote as “unjust”, insisting she “will not be terrorised by pressure from people with power”, the Asahi Shimbun daily reported.

Her former colleagues defended the decision, with a representative for the lawmakers who organised the vote telling NHK they “want to work on restoring the damaged reputation of the town”.

Japan ranks bottom among the Group of Seven countries on female representation in politics and business, and campaigns like the #MeToo movement have struggled to take off in the country.

It is rare for rape victims to report the crime to the police, according to a 2017 government survey, only 4% of women come forward.