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Parties come together to lift ban on Net election campaigning

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

All 11 major parties in the Diet basically agreed Wednesday to lift the ban on Internet-based election campaigning by the time the Upper House election is held this summer.

To get the ball rolling they will study a draft bill drawn up by the two ruling parties, lawmakers said.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito presented the draft bill during a meeting with representatives from the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Japanese Communist Party and six other opposition parties.

No one at the meeting objected to allowing Internet-based campaign activities, attendants said.

But the DPJ, Nippon Ishin and JCP reportedly opposed one article in the bill that would allow only candidates and political parties to use email for campaigns.

These three parties argued that members of the general public should also be allowed to use email to support a campaign, according to people who attended the meeting.

The representatives from the 11 parties plan to meet again Friday. The ruling bloc hopes the bill will be submitted to the Diet by the end of this month and passed in early March, said Takuya Hirai, an LDP lawmaker in the party’s study committee on Net-based campaign issues.

“We’d like to fully use (the Internet) as a tool to help get voters to have sympathy with our party,” Hirai said following the meeting.

Fearing smear campaigns on the Internet, the LDP and New Komeito want stiff penalties for violations.

According to their bill, someone passing themselves off as a candidate and staging a false campaign over the Internet would be imprisoned for up to two years or fined a maximum of ¥300,000.

Their election-related civil rights could also be suspended, according to the bill.

Paid political advertisements on the Internet would be banned except for banners with links to official campaign websites run by parties and candidates.

Parties and candidates would not to be allowed to send campaign-related email to anyone who explicitly expresses a desire not to receive such messages, according to the bill.

Currently, political parties and candidates are not allowed to use the Internet for any campaign purposes during the official election period that runs about two weeks before the voting day.

Except for these official election periods, parties have long regularly used various Net-based services for their general political activities, including websites, Twitter, Facebook and email.