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AKB48 to skip annual election

TOKYO (TR) – All-girl idol until AKB48 will forgo this year’s popularity contest, the group’s management agency revealed on Wednesday.

Following its launch in 2009, the annual General Election, held each June, had become a significant attraction for fans. On its web site, the agency described last year’s incarnation in Nagoya, the tenth, as “a turning point.”

Prior to the holding of the General Election, fans “vote” for AK48 members — and those of sister groups, such as SKE48, NMB48 NGT48 and HKT48 — to appear on an upcoming single. The winners are then announced at the election, whose location changes from year to year.

The votes are cast through ballots found inside special CD singles, smartphone application or the group’s fan club. Last year, nearly 4 million votes were cast.

AKB48 released its 55th single on Wednesday
AKB48 released its 55th single on Wednesday

In 2017, the event was the center of controversy after it was learned that 28 million yen of government funds were allocated for the event in Tomigusuku City, Ibaraki Prefecture. The money was from a national government grant for Okinawa that was earmarked for the promotion of the prefecture.

AKS did not explain the reason for not holding the election. But the agency came under fire in January over its indifferent handling of the alleged assault of NGT48’s Maho Yamaguchi at her residence in Niigata City.

“We want AKB48 to be the group that all fans want to support from the bottoms of their hearts,” AKS said.