Japanese election system full of “don’ts”


 Should door-to-door visits be legalized?


How can we let younger voters take an interest in politics? Almost all developed countries face this problem today.  In Japan, various approaches have been taken to raise the younger people’s political awareness, including the lift in 2013 of the ban on election campaigns via the Internet. However, many other electioneering tactics remain illegal in Japan. One of them is door-to-door canvassing. Why is it still regulated?



The practice allows individual candidates and their supporters to visit houses or offices where eligible voters live or work to ask them to vote. Anyone is forbidden to make such visits under Article 138 of Japan’s Public Offices Election Act. There has been a lot of debate over the stipulation since the days of the Morihiro Hosokawa Administration in 1993. No conclusions have been drawn to date, however. Door-to-door canvassing is said to be kept illegal to prevent crimes like vote buying with gifts during a candidate’s visit.



Can vote buying be practical in SNS-based society?


Image from Master OSM 2011

However, is that reasoning still convincing enough? If a candidate buys votes in today’s SNS-based society, the information will instantly run through the networks, making it harder for him or her to be elected. Meanwhile, as former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi once acknowledged, door-to-door visits are often made in various ways, such as soliciting of votes by members of support groups during the pre-election campaign period. If that may be the case, isn’t it better to legalize the practice and make effective use of it?



Some political pundits say that door-to-door canvassing has a merit of giving voters direct chances to get better acquainted with a candidate’s policy and deepen their interest in politics. Voters and candidates can argue face-to-face, allowing the former’s real opinions to be reflected on the latter’s policy and thereby enhancing the constituents’ independence in voting. Yet, those pundits warn of possible problems involved, such as so-called “spoofing” (identify fraud) or spying on behalf of a rival candidate. Appropriate legislation including a crackdown on such unlawful behaviors will have to be put in place.


  Japanese voters have long accustomed to “elections full of don’ts” as characterized by numerous regulations. Those “don’ts” may have given the voters only limited chances to know of the policy and personality of candidates. One may say that as a result, more voters including young ones in particular have become reluctant to go to the polling stations.  It looks to be about time to prompt participation in politics by more people under a freer election campaign system in order to stem a further decline in the voter turnout. Legalizing door-to-door canvassing can be one of effective means to that end.



(Written by: Takaaki Araki, Natsumi Sofue and Meiku Takeda) (和文:荒木敬明 英文:荒木敬明、祖父江なつみ、武田芽育)