Taro Aso, Muneo Suzuki violated Japanese Election Law

What, me worry?
According to the awesome citizen reporting site JANJAN, Taro Aso and Muneo Suzuki are among many Japanese politicians who were in violation of the Public Office Election Law as late as October 7.

Article 178 of the law (can be found here after a somewhat cumbersome search) states that it is illegal for the winner or loser of an election to distribute or display letters thanking constituents.

However, as of October 7, Taro Aso had this message on his site:

“I achieved my 9th victory in the 44th Lower House election, held this past September 11, thanks to the passionate support of all of you in [my] election district [Fukuoka 8th]. I give my hearty thanks from the bottom of my heart.”

And Muneo Suzuki, this:
“I express my gratitude regarding [my] recent election victory.”

The Diet members violating this law cannot be punished for it, as the POE Law is one of Japan’s “bekarazu ho” (“shouldn’t laws”) that gives lots of guidelines but little enforcement. However, one can face punishment if there is any sort of direct monetary benefit to voters pre- or post-election.

The same article bans “election victory celebrations,” morale-boosting act such as riding around cars or marching in groups, and giving out the names of people and groups that supported your election.

This issue is not new. In 2000, Shukan Post, one of Japan’s infamous weeklies, fingered MOF bureaucrat-turned-Diet member Ichizo Miyamoto for writing a letter thanking his constituents (article cached by Google here). Kind of unfair, though, (especially given the article’s inflammatory tone) considering that more than 80 politicians (or ex-politicians) are engaging in the same activity almost unscathed!

The article hints that the laws exist to prevent “ex post facto vote buying,” which makes sense. I mean, who wouldn’t vote for whoever throws the most bitchin’ parties?

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