Volume 4, Issue 8, (Originally Published on 16 September 2013)
With the recent federal election taking over our lives temporarily, Professor Dan Rosen of Chuo University, Tokyo gave a timely seminar on election cam¬paigning in Japan.
Up until last July’s general election in Japan, campaigning had been severely restricted by legislation that aimed to ensure equality amongst all candidates.
Restrictions included the size and placement of electoral posters as well as limits on the number of flyers that could be distributed to the electorate. As In¬ternet campaigning was prohibited, the most common method of promotion was undertaken in person at train stations or via ‘electoral vans’ that drive around the electorate broadcasting the candidate’s name.
In practice, this gave the incumbent undue advantage as voters are un¬likely to endorse a candidate they do not know, particularly when policies are generally not published due to the restrictions on flyers, etc.
The recent amendments that allowed for Internet campaigning, therefore, aimed to address this issue head on.
The prohibition on the use of internet campaigns was lifted and candidates were allowed to publish websites and promote themselves via email for the first time in the recent national elections.
Interestingly though, voters them¬selves are prohibited from distributing information about candidates and face fines and imprisonment if they breach these rules.
Although some 200 breaches of the new law were discovered, the govern¬ment decided not to prosecute, due to lack of awareness about how the new legislation functions.
While restrictive campaigning meas¬ures do not promote democracy, in my opinion, I can’t say that I am opposed to the idea of restricting leafleting after the mass of leaflets I received during the recent campaign period.