Taro Aso, the current Japanese prime minister has dissolved the House of Representatives in the Japanese Diet and signalled a general election for August 30th. Following the significance of social media in the US presidential campaign of last year we might expect these new networks to play a significant part. Indeed a number of leading Japanese politicians like Seiji Ohsaka of the DPJ and Gaku Hashimoto of the ruling LDP are already using twitter to comment on policy issues.
However, Japan has a 59-year-old election law that may prevent the use of twitter and other social media in the final stages of the campaign. The law which bans posters and pamphlets has been interpreted as preventing Internet advertising. Seiji Ohsaka has apparently been told that this law means that he must stop using twitter for the 12 days of official campaigning ahead of the election. Ohsaka says “ It will have to be used in campaigns. It is no longer possible to say ‘don’t use it’.”
It will be fascinating to see what impact social media will have in the Japanese election and how this will impact on the campaign plans and ideas for the forthcoming UK General Election.