Idol singer mega-group AKB48 cancels annual General Election following string of scandals -- Mar 15
For idol singer fans in Japan, the biggest event of the year isn’t the release of a single or opening of a concert tour, but the AKB48 General Election.

Since 2009, the annual poll has asked fans to vote for their favorite performer across top-tier idol supergroup AKB48 and its regional multi-vocalist sister acts, with the winner being crowned in a lavish, tear-filled ceremony.

The election usually takes place in mid-summer, but this year fans will have to make other plans for the warm months, as AKB48’s management has announced that there will be no election this year. This will be the first time for the event to not take place since its inaugural iteration in 2009.No reason has been given for the decision, though some might be tempted to attribute it to the relative lack of variety in the election’s winners. Over the course of 10 years, only five idols have risen to the top, with Rino Sashihara, of Fukuoka-based HKT48, winning four times, including thrice in a row (2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017). However, the General Election hasn’t ever really been about surprises and suspense. Fans obtain ballots by purchasing CDs and other merchandise, and the election is a major revenue source as the hardest of the hardcore idol supporters buy in bulk in order to pad the ballot box with votes for their personal favorite idol.

The more plausible speculation is that AKS, the company that manages AKB48 and its affiliated acts, has been under heavy criticism since the start of the year. In January, Maho Yamaguchi, an idol with Niigata-based NGT48 (whose members have been eligible for the AKB48 General Election since 2016) revealed that she’d been stalked and attacked as she attempted to enter her home and that NGT48’s management had covered the incident up for a month. She then appeared in front of fans to apologize for “causing a commotion,” followed by NGT48’s then-manager Etsuro Imamura stepping down from the position and being reassigned to the Tokyo office.

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