Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Internet Campaigning

The media has noticed that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, the hyperactive co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party (JRP), has continued tweeting about the issues on his popular Twitter account after the December 4 public notice of the upcoming House of Representatives election. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has ruled that any text or image posted on the internet constitutes a document or drawing under the highly restrictive Public Offices Election Act, effectively banning new content, including renewal during the official campaign period, on homepages, blogs, and, more recently, Twitter accounts of the candidates and the political parties that field them. Hashimoto claims that he is not covered by the ruling, but there is a preexisting opinion from MIC—more specifically since the election is under way. However, the National Board of Elections—that the ban covers the internet activities of the members of the leadership of the parties.

Going mostly unnoticed, though, is a pandemic of violations. Kenneth McElwain, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, has spotted the DPJ and LDP, not to mention the JRP* releasing new information on their websites after the public notice. They cannot be doing this out of ignorance because internet campaigning has been a major issue for some time, with the established political parties deeply involved in the debate.

Most likely, they are doing it because they can. Over the years, the Boards of election have issued numerous warnings to offenders, but no candidate, no party, including the most persistent and blatant cases, have actually been prosecuted. Public opinion, and that includes the mainstream media, is near-unanimously in favor of allowing internet campaigning. Given this backdrop, party leaders must have figured that there would be plenty of benefit and little downside risk if they ignored the ban, as long as the substance stayed within legal and acceptable boundaries.

Your Party by contrast is respecting the ban, according to McElwain. Fuddy-duddies! Could this straight-laced behavior be indicative of a broader defect that has limited their appeal despite the fact that they were the first true Third Force movement and remain the least promiscuous? Those types are never the most popular kids in class IYKWIAS.

* The Japan Communist Party, for another, has new content today (Dec. 5). 

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