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Osaka mayor fights Japan’s “archaic” election laws on Twitter

A 1950 law has been interpreted as banning online campaigning—including via Twitter—in Japan's elections.


Kris Holt

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 6, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 6:02 am CDT

In the 12 days before an election in Japan, candidates are very limited as to how they can campaign. A 1950 law intended to level the playing field and ensure fairness among candidates rules out campaigning online under a modern interpretation.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto took to Twitter this week to fight against the law, sending more than 100 tweets in less than two days, the Wall Street Journal reported. Hashimoto, who is also deputy head of the Japan Restoration Party, claimed the law is archaic.

He wrote, “What is this campaign exercise we are doing now–these stupid and formal rules based on ceremony, these meaningless and preposterously outdated activities like saying our names over and over again, and handing out a certain number of stamped fliers? Everything about it is absurd.”

The law restricts candidates to old-school methods like letters and flyers, although there’s a limit on the number of leaflets that can be dished out. That means candidates can’t send emails, post to Facebook, update their websites, or post anything on Twitter about the election.

Though his party urged members to lay off Twitter for the time being, Hashimoto has continued to post tweets, saying the law doesn’t apply to him as he isn’t running in the Dec. 16 national election and the WSJ noted that as long as he steers away from asking for votes or promoting individual candidates, he should be in the clear.

After the ban took effect Tuesday, Hashimoto continued tweeting, questioning why he was banned from tweeting about the election specifically when “the established parties spent ¥35 billion [$425.2 million] on advertisement during the last election.”

While Japan’s officials have tried to relax the law, which Hashimoto claimed would make the election more interesting, they’ve instead had to deal with more urgent matters such as taxation.

The Japan Restoration Party had not received any complaints about Hashimoto’s tweets as of Wednesday.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Dec 6, 2012, 2:46 pm CST