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Democratic Innovations or Utopian Ideas? The Cases of Cyber Parties in Japan

Asia
Comparative Politics
Democracy
Internet
Party Members
Boyu Chen
Department of International Studies and Regional Development, University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Boyu Chen
Department of International Studies and Regional Development, University of Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Hidenori Tsutsumi
Kagawa University

Abstract

In recent years, like other traditional democratic countries, relations between political parties and their supporters / voters in Japan have been weakening. The information technology seems to bring solutions to such party-supporter relations. In general, parties use the Internet to appeal to supporters and mobilize them, especially in time of election campaign. Some parties further attempt to achieve direct democracy by allowing supporters / voters to have a say in policy making process through the Internet. In Japan, two parties, The Assembly to Energize Japan (AEJ, Nippon wo Genki ni Suru Kai) and The No Party to Support (NPS, Shiji Seitou Nashi), adopted the system which supporters vote whether they agree or disagree a bill or agenda through the Internet, and members of the parliament belong to the party could vote in the Diet according to the distribution of supporters’ votes. Though the NPS never won a seat in the Diet, the AEJ actually operated this system four times in 2015. Their attempts caused an argument on the form of democracy and the role of political party in the Internet era. From the viewpoint of party organization, it might be a means of continuous communication between party and its supports. This article examines why these parties decided to adopt such system of supporters’ preference aggregation and voting behavior in the Diet, and how the AEJ operated this system. We also estimate whether such system combine representative politics with participatory democracy is merely a utopian idea.