An online stunt by a student activist poking fun at the administration for calling a snap election has drawn sharp criticism from the prime minister.
Yamato Aoki, 20, set up a website purporting to be run by a 10-year-old boy, which he used to ask faux-naive questions about the government’s actions and performance.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weighed in on the stunt Tuesday, saying in a Facebook post that Aoki’s feigning of childlike innocence was “despicable.”
“I hope his deed is not part of some organized attempt to manipulate public opinion against me ahead of the election,” the post said.
The now defunct website was purported to be run by a schoolboy named Nakamura and was peppered with classroom-themed graphics. Titled Doshite Kaisan Surundesuka? (Why Dissolution?), it lampooned in child-speak everything from Abe’s money-pumping “Abenomics” policies to his sudden decision to call a snap election and his controversial state secrecy law.
“Hello, Mr. Prime Minister,” it said. “Your so-called ‘Abenomics’ policy — wasn’t it supposed to increase the nation’s money? My allowance isn’t getting any bigger.
“Why an election now? Oh, is that a secret too?”
By Saturday, the site had become a darling of Abe’s political foes. The Democratic Party of Japan shared a link to it via the Twitter account for a virtual party mascot and went so far as to call the site’s inventor a “child prodigy.”
DPJ member Renho, who goes by only one name, lauded the website as representative of public bewilderment over Abe’s decision to call an election two years before the terms of Lower House lawmakers were due to expire.
But the website’s suspiciously savvy design and unnaturally childish choice of vocabulary soon triggered an online hunt for the poster’s real identity.
On Saturday night, Aoki, a Keio University student, came forward and apologized on Twitter for deceiving his supporters.
“The so-called ’10-year-old Nakamura’ is me,” he wrote.
He was motivated by a sense of bafflement at Abe’s abrupt move Nov. 18 to dissolve the Lower House, Aoki wrote, adding that he wanted to do something to engage his fellow voters in a political conversation.
“By appearing to be a 10-year-old, I thought many people would be interested in what I’m doing,” he wrote.
Aoki also announced Sunday that he would step down as representative of a nonprofit organization that aims to engage young people in politics.
Abe’s Facebook post late Monday shared a link to a blog post on Hoshu Sokuho (Breaking News for Conservatives), a controversial website that compiles conservative threads from the popular online message board 2channel.