Japan's mayor refuses to stop tweeting

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IOL pic sep9 twitter milestone usage AFP File picture

Tokyo - A maverick hoping to upset Japan's political scene has vowed to continue using Twitter throughout a general election, despite a strict ban on all forms of Internet campaigning.

Under Japanese election law, candidates and their supporters are not permitted to Tweet, use Facebook, update their websites or even send emails during the official campaign period, which begins on Tuesday ahead of the December 16 poll.

But Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Japan's second city Osaka, said he would carry on airing his thoughts to his 900 000 followers on the micro-blogging site.

“I am not a candidate, so acts other than vote solicitation should be allowed,” said Hashimoto, the deputy leader of the Japan Restoration Party, who is not standing for parliament.

“I will not ask for votes,” he told reporters Thursday.

Despite its reputation for innovative wizardry, Japan has a sometimes confounding tendency to shun technology.

Visiting foreigners comment on the still widespread use of fax machines in homes and offices, a technology that has been largely killed off by email in most rich countries.

Laws that predate the Internet era prohibit the use of e-campaigning, with candidates and their supporters spending two frenetic weeks driving and walking around their districts doing little more than shouting out their names.

“Anything that shows on a computer display is considered to be a type of flyer, which are strictly regulated under the Public Office Election Law,” said an official from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Candidates and their supporters need to follow strict rules and campaigning formats, he said.

Hashimoto has joined forces with the China-bashing former governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, to form what they hope will be a viable third choice for voters fed up with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan or their conservative opponents. - Sapa-AFP

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