Noncandidate Hashimoto will keep using Twitter during campaign despite Internet ban

Kyodo

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) founder and No. 2 man Toru Hashimoto will continue using Twitter after campaigning for the Lower House election officially kicks off Dec. 4 despite the ban on online politicking during the period.

“I am not a candidate, so acts other than vote solicitation should be allowed,” the outspoken Osaka mayor asserted Thursday. Hashimoto is an avid user of the microblogging site and has about 900,000 followers.

“I will not ask for votes,” he said.

The Public Offices Election Law is interpreted as banning the use of the Internet for campaigning because the medium is considered the same as using leaflets and posters, which are subject to strict regulations.

“Election campaigning is not allowed on the Internet, including Twitter,” said an official at the Election Division of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Lawmakers and officials have suggested revising the law, which predates the Internet era, to accommodate the use of current technology in elections. The issue, however, is considered low priority.

Hashimoto’s remarks could rekindle public debate on the use of the Internet in elections.

“Just as media outlets report (on elections) even after the official campaigning period begins, isn’t it a good thing in general to actively express the ideas of political parties?” Hashimoto asked at a press conference at Osaka City Hall.

“Even if (tweets) may indirectly lead to votes, it is different from campaigning,” Hashimoto said. “If you start accepting such an argument, you (reporters) won’t be able to cover elections.”

The election law stipulates that newspapers, magazines and broadcasters have the freedom to report and editorialize on elections.