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2013年8月 5日 (月)

ネット選挙解禁 功罪を検証し政治に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 5, 2013
Benefits of online campaigning should be closely examined
ネット選挙解禁 功罪を検証し政治に生かせ(8月4日付・読売社説)

The ban on the Internet’s use in election campaigning was lifted starting with the House of Councillors election in July. What were the advantages and disadvantages of using this campaign method?

All parties must examine these points and consider how to encourage the public to participate more in politics.

In the upper house election, political parties and candidates placed a great deal of emphasis on sending such information as election platforms, profile data, stumping photos and video messages to the electorate through websites, blogs and other means.

As for social networking services, which allow senders and recipients to communicate interactively, the Liberal Democratic Party mainly employed Facebook, while New Komeito and the Japanese Communist Party used LINE and Twitter, respectively, as new campaign tools.

The volume of information available to voters during the campaign period increased significantly.

However, online campaigning appeared to have had a limited effect on the election outcome.

In exit polls The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted on the polling day, those who said they checked online to decide who to vote for averaged only 11 percent of people who cast their ballots in the election. The corresponding figure for voters in their 20s was no more than 24 percent.

Voter turnout overall was lower than in the previous upper house election.

This means that the main aim of online campaigning--getting young people interested in politics and having them go to the polls--failed to materialize.

A major factor behind this may be that the parties and candidates were more or less working in the dark when they were campaigning online, mainly because they did not seem to have a good command of the Internet.

Meager information

Information posted online generally was limited to such items as time schedules of stumping tours and videos of speeches on the street, while information about policies and policy discussions among the parties was sparse.

The dearth of policy discussions in online campaigning might be due partly to fears that clarifying positions concerning policies on such issues as nuclear power generation over which voters’ views are divided sharply could have incurred what is called “flaming,” a flood of criticism and counterarguments.

There were no instances of such malicious cases as impersonating candidates or tampering with their websites, which had been feared with the introduction of online campaigning, according to the National Police Agency.

It also should be noted in this connection that a safety-first approach was taken in the online campaigning. Various restrictions were imposed, such as a ban on the use of e-mail for electioneering purposes by anyone except the parties and candidates.

To ensure fair campaigning, it is imperative to prevent illegal actions, so measures to that end must be implemented continuously.

However, there were some cases in which slanderous and defamatory messages were directed at certain candidates. More enlightened use of online campaign tools is indispensible.

It has been pointed out that the distinction between what is lawful and unlawful under the Public Offices Election Law is unclear in regard to online campaigning, making the system a bit of a mystery to many voters. Both the ruling and opposition camps should consider ways to resolve the ambiguity of online campaign methods from a legal point of view.

Use of the Internet in campaigning will most likely be expanded to local elections, bringing politics closer to voters than ever before.

All parties and candidates must use their ingenuity to determine how to use online campaigning in the best way possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2013)
(2013年8月4日01時22分  読売新聞)


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