MAKUHARI, CHIBA PREF. – Political parties over the weekend competed for the support of heavy Internet users at an event hosted by an online video-sharing site in the runup to the House of Councilors election in July, the first election to allow politicians unfettered access to the Web in their campaigns.
The Liberal Democratic Party and rivals such as the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) as well as the Japanese Communist Party set up booths at the two-day “Nico Nico Chokaigi” event hosted by Dwango Co., which operates the video-sharing site Nico Nico Douga.
With the passage of a revision to the 1950 Public Offices Election Law earlier this month, the upcoming Upper House election in July will see political parties, candidates and voters launch election campaigns utilizing the Internet, including use of blogs, home pages, as well as social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The political parties are mulling the best online strategies to reach out to Internet-savvy voters and possibly raise overall voter turnout. Some parties are ordering politicians and candidates to create Facebook and Twitter accounts and training them to avoid falling prey to slanderous comments through identity theft.
Nico Nico Douga is viewed as a powerful tool because the site, which draws an average of 100 million viewers a day, allows users to post comments in real time. Thus, responses to candidates’ statements will be immediate, raising the possibility that videos could go viral, either helping or hurting a candidate’s chances.
Looking to get a leg up in this brave new world, each party dispatched its leaders and other heavy hitters to interact with the Internet-savvy in person. The popularity of each booth reflected the political pecking order, with the LDP drawing the most visitors.
The crowd shouted the name of LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba as he entered the venue and served his special curry to the participants.
“I would vote for the LDP,” said Koji Aoki, 39, who said he has never cast his ballot. “Having Shinzo Abe or Ishiba at the event for online geeks definitely got our attention.”
The LDP also attracted those who wanted to hop on the campaign truck used by prime ministers, and make campaign speeches and pledges as if they were actual candidates for the Upper House election.
Meanwhile, the booths of the Democratic Party of Japan, which were located right behind the LDP’s, didn’t draw much of a crowd, even though the DPJ invited participants to debate with party leader Banri Kaieda, Secretary General Goshi Hosono and ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
“The raison d’etre of the DPJ is that we should have more parties that can replace the LDP when it loses support again,” said Hosono, when asked what purpose the DPJ, which was ousted from power last December, serves.