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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged a government information technology panel Thursday to consider ways to introduce electronic voting in local elections, officials said.

“For politicians, the introduction of online voting systems is an issue of big concern. I would like you to study it so that willing local governments can introduce it,” Koizumi was quoted as telling the day’s meeting of the IT Strategy Headquarters.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba has been calling for introduction of an online voting system in the next Hiroshima gubernatorial election this fall.

Within the central government, the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry has been considering submitting to the current Diet session a bill for allowing such a system in local elections, government sources said. But the ministry will probably drop the idea, because many in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party remain reluctant, they said.

Boosting voter turnout, a probable outcome of electronic voting, would bring more unaffiliated voters to the polls, a scenario not considered to be in the LDP’s advantage because such voters would support non-LDP candidates.

Citing the current high public support for the Koizumi Cabinet, however, some observers said introducing online voting may work in the LDP’s favor.

During Thursday’s IT council meeting, Heizo Takenaka, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, presented a five-point proposal for fiscal 2002 to promote the so-called e-Japan project.

The proposal, among other things, calls for building a nationwide ultra-high-speed Internet access system and mapping out steps to stir telecom industry competition.

Takenaka also proposed establishing school IT training programs, drafting rules for online transactions and creating countermeasures against cyber-terrorism.

He suggested establishing “electronic governments” at the national and local levels as well. These would consist of Internet-based government services that would include providing administrative information and issuing various documents, including residential certificates, online.

Under the e-Japan project endorsed in March, the government aims to transform Japan into the world’s most advanced IT nation within five years. The IT Strategy Headquarters is to map out by the end of June what must be done in fiscal 2002 to carry out the project so the state can make related budget requests for the next fiscal year, which starts next April.

Among other participants, Nobuyuki Idei, chairman of Sony Corp., said he expects the e-Japan project to be carried out within three years, not within five years as currently planned.

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