Video sharing site Nico Nico Douga gave politicians a taste of how it is to interact with the Internet savvy crowd as they hosted an event called “Nico Nico Chokaigi”. This is in preparation for the Upper House elections in July where, for the first time, politicians will be allowed to use the Internet for their campaign.
Each party had a booth at the event, with the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) as well as the Japanese Communist Party participating in the two-day event. They didn’t just send anybody to their booth as party heavy-hitters like LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba (who even served his own curry to guests), DPJ party leader Banri Kaieda, Secretary General Goshi Hosono and ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan. If the popularity of the parties’ booths are any indication, then the LDP still has the pulse of the people. They drew the most visitors, but maybe it is also because of the campaign truck, the actual one used by the prime ministers, where visitors could climb up on it and make speeches and pledges, like they were real candidates. But in any case, the DPJ booth could have used a gimmick like that, since they didn’t draw a big crowd, even with the presence of their big guns.
With the revision of the 1950 Public Offices Election Law earlier this month, the July elections will see political parties, politicians and voters themselves utilize Internet tools like blogs, websites, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and sites like Nico Nico Douga. The video sharing site, operated by Dwango Co., draws in 100 million viewers a day and politicians and their campaign teams can see comments to videos posted in real-time. The immediacy of the response can cause a video to go viral and may hurt or help the candidates’ chances. This is the double-edged sword wielded by the Internet, that is why the parties are working double time to educate the candidates on the best way to run an online campaign. They also have to learn how to navigate through the muck of cyberbullying, slanderous comments, even identity theft (people can set up fake accounts to impersonate candidates) which comes with the territory.