Our Japan correspondent, Takehiko Kambayashi, tells me the country’s electoral rules are finally being dragged into the 21st (or at least 20th) century.
Despite its tech-savvy image, a long-standing law has until now been interpreted to mean that political parties can’t use the Internet to campaign during the 12 days of official campaigning leading up to a poll.
But the recently elected Democratic Party of Japan is looking to change the rules as part of its welcome spring clean of some of the fustier rules it inherited from the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
‘The law is unbelievably backward,’ Kambayashi told me this morning. ‘It’s been years since the Internet started to raise interest in elections elsewhere. But Japanese election law has prohibited parties and candidates from updating their homepages, Twitter and blogs and from sending email magazines during the 12 days of official campaigning.’
He says the 59-year-old public offices election law of course doesn’t actually mention use of the Internet, but says it has been interpreted so that Website use is illegal as the information on the homepage or blog could be printed out an unlimited number of times and distributed as a flier.
‘The Democratic Party of Japan had long wanted to revise the law, but the LDP repeatedly rejected this because many of their supporters and members were not frequent Internet users,’ Kambayashi says.
But with the DPJ now in power, a bill to revise the law will be submitted to the Diet (parliament) next year in time for the upper house election next summer, a change Kambayashi says could be a big boost for the more Internet-savvy DPJ supporters.