Japan Ruling Party Adopts New Campaign Measures, including Remote Roadside Speeches

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, seen on the video monitor at right, livestreams a roadside speech from Liberal Democratic Party headquarters on Dec. 15 to passersby in Tokyo.

The Liberal Democratic Party is trying out new campaign strategies centered around livestreaming stump speeches to the streets and online discussions with its organizations in rural areas.

With the terms of office for House of Representatives members expiring next October, this year’s election will see the LDP taking on not only its rival parties and candidates, but also an “invisible enemy” — the coronavirus.

On Dec. 15, the LDP staged a remote roadside speech near Machiya Station on the Toden Arakawa Line (the Tokyo Sakura Tram), using a large TV monitor mounted atop a sound truck. The speech, by former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, was livestreamed from the party’s headquarters 10 kilometers away.

“We would like to give a roadside speech while trying to communicate with you remotely but instantly,” Nakatani told the about 20 passersby who stopped to listen. It was the fourth time for the party to reach out to the public in this way.

Kiyoto Tsuji, a lower house member and head of the Public Speeches Division at the LDP, who worked out the remote roadside speeches, emphasized their merit, saying “We can have the prime minister and other Cabinet members make their speeches remotely, fitting them into their busy schedules.”

However, under the Public Offices Election Law, the use of video monitors outdoors is prohibited during actual election campaign periods. So at present, these remote speeches are limited to routine activities only.

One senior party official said gloomily: “The fundamentals of election campaigning lie in meeting [constituents] face to face. The number of people you shake hands with is important as well. But a lot depends on how the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus will turn out.”

■ Live from party headquarters

Since he took office, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is also president of the LDP, has held six online dialogues with senior officials of the party’s prefectural chapters, including the Tokyo chapter.

On Dec. 13, Suga told senior officials of the party’s five prefectural chapters in the Hokuriku-Shinetsu region during a livestream from the president’s office at LDP headquarters in Tokyo: “By getting through the new coronavirus crisis, we will get the economy to recover. I would like to realize, by all possible means, the revitalization of local economies and an increase in incomes.”

Under normal circumstances, the party president would encourage prefectural chapter officials in person ahead of lower house election. But having these officials physically gather from across the country is proving difficult amid the coronavirus crisis.

Itsunori Onodera, head of the Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters of the LDP, said: “It is by the power of our local organizations that we were able to recapture the reins of government. We would like to campaign for the lower house election with rock-solid unity.”

■ Faction’s cram school

Meanwhile, on Dec. 10, the Kishida faction, led by Fumio Kishida, gathered members who had been elected to the lower house three or fewer times to launch a “campaign juku,” or tutoring school for campaigning.

For junior members, it has become a source of distress that opportunities to make themselves known to people in their constituencies have become scarce, due to the decline in the number of local events.

Former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto, the secretary general of the faction, served as a lecturer at the juku and encouraged the younger members by saying, “It is a good opportunity for you to make use of spare time.”

Specifically, Nemoto noted the importance of exchanging opinions with senior officials of their supporters’ associations from now until the election to further cultivate relationships of trust.

As for activities to be taken amid the coronavirus crisis, one of the members present said: “I would like to work out ways, in my own way, to increase the number of opportunities for one-on-one dialogues and to make better use of the internet, for instance.”