The Liberal Democratic Party is attempting to reach the youth vote ahead of next summer’s Upper House election.
The party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to select one or two candidates from outside politics, initiating an Internet campaign urging potential contenders to step forward.
The poll in July will be the first in which 18- and 19-year-olds can participate, after the voting age was lowered this summer.
The plan, dubbed “Open Entry Project 2016,” was announced on Thursday.
Only Japanese nationals aged 30 or above can run in an Upper House election, but those who fancy their chances in the heart of party politics are welcome to apply through a website that will go live from November to January. The party will pick up to 10 potential contenders and will then ask the public to whittle down the list to one or two candidates who will then stand on an LDP ticket.
Even non-LDP supporters can participate as long as they can demonstrate they are eligible to vote in the summer election.
“We will be able to approach a wide variety of people and discover new candidates who can move this country forward,” Toshimitsu Motegi, a LDP lawmaker in charge of election strategy, said Thursday.
Motegi said the new voting age was one factor behind the project. An additional 2.4 million people, including high school students, will be able to vote in the election. “For this project we are targeting … those actively using Internet media,” Motegi said.
Although a similar experiment was carried out in 2013 by now-defunct Your Party, this is the first such project by a ruling party, said Ryosuke Nishida, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who studies politics and the media. It appeared aimed at projecting an image of a party that cared about first-time voters, he said.
Nishida said the Internet can be an effective way to get people engaged in politics. It “allows anyone to be part of politics, regardless of where they live,” he said.
But he warned the ruling party could end up dominating communication channels — online and conventional — between politicians and the people.
“Innovative projects like this are what opposition parties should take advantage of. You want them to be viable challengers, and you want to see them try something ambitious,” Nishida said. He said the opposition, so far, had done nothing to attract younger voters.
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