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Japan lifts ban on political e-campaigning

Japan's parliament on Friday lifted a ban on Internet electioneering, permitting candidates and their supporters to tweet, use Facebook and update their websites on the campaign trail.

TOKYO: Japan's parliament on Friday lifted a ban on Internet electioneering, permitting candidates and their supporters to tweet, use Facebook and update their websites on the campaign trail.

The upper house unanimously approved the bill to revise the public offices election law, ending a long-running debate on the strict ban, criticised by its detractors as an anachronism.

Despite its reputation for innovative wizardry, Japan has a sometimes confounding tendency to shun technology and the format of elections has changed little over the past few decades.

The previous electoral laws, which predate the Internet era, treated anything appearing on a screen as akin to a leaflet, which means it falls under restrictions on how many fliers any nominee can produce.

Unlike in the 24-hour, Internet-saturated world of US politics, for example, candidates in Japan campaign for two frenetic weeks ahead of polls, driving and walking around their districts doing little more than shouting out their names.

The first national election with e-campaigning will be upper-house polls that will take place in or after July.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative Liberal Democratic Party is already gearing up for the polls after scoring a landslide win in the lower-house vote in December.

That election poll saw voter turnout fall to a record low 59.3 percent.

Abe, who enjoys wide support among a growing band of right wing fringe groups active on the Internet, had long signalled his inclination to change the law.

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