Friday, December 12, 2014

Snap Election's Snap Season

Japan is about to have a Snap Election.  A few weeks ago, in response to the rapidly weakening yen, Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of the Diet.  This is incredible to me; that a leader can just dismiss the legislative body and call for a new election.  Poof!  But so it is, and on December 14th there will be another election in Japan, one which will hopefully reflect the current sentiments of the Japanese population and help steer the country to a better place economically.

Another thing that is incredible about this, is that despite the announcement of the Snap Election in mid-November, the official campaign season didn't start until December 2nd.  And so now, in a matter of less than two weeks, candidates are in a flurry to promote themselves.  According to Wikipedia, candidate advertising is quite restricted in Japan.  There is a narrow time window, it is exclusively government funded, and there are rules about the length of the ad and the space it occupies in print.  Negative advertising is discouraged.  Amazing.  It's hard to imagine something more different than the American system.  I can now understand why the Japanese were so amazed at our involvement in the last American presidential election, how we all gathered around the television in the lounge at break, watching the votes counted on CNN.  They took pictures of us with their cell phones.

With all of the restrictions, it makes a little more sense that one of the most prevalent means of advertising are vans with loud speakers that drive through the streets making announcements promoting the candidates.  Apparently this is quite alright.  Occasionally the vans stop somewhere and have speeches in front of groups of people.  One of the them stopped outside the Hankyu Gardens Department Store near HPAC earlier today and I had a chance to watch Japanese people get involved in their election.  It was refreshing to see.  Again, democracy–or at least the elections that we believe to stand for democracy–are a big deal in America, and sometimes I miss the passion here; even if American elections are overly dramatic, media mired, manipulative, and questionably funded.  But everyone really cares!

So it was warming to see the crowds surrounding the vans today.  A far more subdued version of America's democracy, but one that seemed civil and full of interest.

Candidates in a parking lot across the street from the department store

Shoppers and passers by stop to listen and show their support

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