OSAKA – Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) founder and deputy leader Toru Hashimoto continued his personal Twitter feed Thursday, two days after campaigning officially began and a day after Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the legality of his actions would be left up to the police.
In addition, Hashimoto attacked media outlets that reported that he’d agreed to suspend the use of Twitter during the campaign. He has more than 900,000 followers and posted 122 messages during the first two days of the campaign.
Under election law, only certain types of designated “election campaigns” are allowed during the official campaign period, but these do not include politicking conducted over the Internet.
However, regular “political activities” that do not promote or criticize particular candidates are allowed even on the Net, which leaves gray zones as to what politicians can and cannot do during official campaigning.
On Thursday, Hashimoto went after media outlets that reported he was going to suspend use of his Twitter account during the campaign due to legal concerns.
“I did not recognize in the least that my Twitter feeds were election campaigns,” a defiant Hashimoto said on his account Thursday.
“Established political parties received more than ¥35 billion in party funds to use for advertising. But Twitter postings are not allowed? The gist of the election law is that only people with money are forbidden from advertising. Therefore, there is no reason to forbid political activities on Twitter,” Hashimoto added.
Thursday’s postings were made in response to remarks Wednesday by Fujimura, who told reporters it will not be the government that judges the legality of Hashimoto’s actions, but the police.
However, Fujimura also warned that, in general, changing the content of websites was — depending on the content — something that touched on the regulations proscribed by the law. As of early Thursday afternoon, Nippon Ishin’s website continued to post Hashimoto’s Twitter messages.
Wooing unions, industry
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are racing to consolidate support from labor unions and industry groups ahead of the Dec. 16 general election, as the number of unaffiliated voters has swelled after a series of new parties were launched.
The country’s two major parties are looking to retain their lead over smaller rivals by securing organized votes in the Lower House election.
Senior DPJ members have visited local chapters of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) up and down the country since September’s reshuffle of the Cabinet and the party’s leadership.
Rengo President Nobuaki Koga has assured the DPJ that the country’s largest umbrella labor group will grant its full support in the upcoming poll, despite public opinion polls showing the party could be trounced.
“Amid strong headwind, our unity is tested now,” Koga said.
Construction, medical and agriculture industry groups were once known as the LDP’s “vote-gathering machines,” but since the party lost power in the 2009 general election, their support started shifting toward the DPJ.
However, with the LDP looking increasingly likely to be returned to power this month, industry groups are once more throwing their backing behind the party. In late November, officials from more than 700 industry and business groups participated in a briefing held by the LDP to outline its policy pledges.
“We ask you to cooperate to regain the confidence in Japan that has been damaged over the last three years (of DPJ rule),” LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba told participants, many of whom strongly pledged their support to the party and expressed their hopes for it to win a landslide victory Dec. 16.
Among major industry and business groups, the Japan Medical Association, the Japan Dental Association, the Japan Trucking Association and the country’s dietetic association all backed DPJ candidates in the 2010 Upper House election. At this vote, however, the four groups have refrained from nominating a particular party and have left the decision up to their local chapters.
A national federation of small business associations is taking a similar neutral stance, though a federation source said many local associations are expected to vote for the LDP.
But this migration back to the LDP is not across all industries.
“Even if the LDP regains power, it is uncertain how long it can stay in office. We no longer support a particular party, but will make a decision after examining the policies” of each one, an industry group official said.
Meanwhile, a farmers’ group in Aomori Prefecture has decided to endorse candidates from either the LDP, the Japanese Communist Party or the newly founded Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan).