Abe ready to liberalize online campaigning

Abe ready to liberalize online campaigningLiberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe, Japan's incoming prime minister, on Friday showed readiness to lift the current ban on the use of the Internet in election campaigning.

"Online campaigning should be liberalized by the next election," Abe told reporters after a meeting with business leaders, referring to the House of Councillors election scheduled for next summer.

"The use of the Internet is increasingly desired for election-related public relations activities and information exchange. It is also expected to help push up voter turnout," Abe said.

At present, the Public Offices Election Law strictly regulates distribution of paper leaflets and posters during official election campaigning.

Internet contents visually presented on computer screens, which are interpreted as having the same nature as leaflets and posters, are also subject to the regulation. Candidates are thus banned from updating their websites during the official campaigning period.

But the wisdom of keeping the law intact, which predates the Internet era, is being increasingly questioned, with both ruling and opposition parties having pledged to lift the ban in their policy platforms for the latest House of Representatives election.

At Friday's meeting with leaders of the Japan Association of New Economy, which mainly comprises information technology companies, Abe said the IT sector is creating new jobs and that he wants to help the sector grow further through deregulation.

After the meeting with Abe, Rakuten Inc. President Hiroshi Mikitani, an advocate of liberalization of online campaigning, said he was encouraged by Abe's stance on the issue and voiced hopes for the liberalization being realized.

Internal affairs minister Shinji Tarutoko, who is responsible for election-related rules, said on Dec. 7 that the election system should be reviewed in line with the current situation.

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