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Leslie M. Tkach-Kawasaki, "Politics@Japan: Party Competition on the Internet in Japan," Party Politics, 9 (January 2003), 105-123.

First Paragraph:
Since the mid-1990s, research on the political impact and use of the Internet and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) has grown considerably. While studies have focused on different actors in the political process, they have been united around one fundamental question - will the Internet change politics? Within the field of party politics, this question has focused on two main ateas of party activity: first, campaigning and communication style -- is the Internet breeding a new form of more direct and interactive communication with voters? And second, how far does the Internet affect party competition? By offering a more decentralized and open space for political communication than the traditional mass media such as television, does the Internet promote voices that were previously consigned to the edges of the political debate or those frozen out? In this article I seek to address these questions in the context of the Japanese political party system, examining the evolution of Web campaigning from the legislative elections of 1995 up to, and focusing specifically on, the more recent elections of 2000 and 2001.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Lower House election results for select parties since 1983
Table 2: Upper House election results since 1995 (combined proportional and singlemember district system)
Table 3: Party website establishment date
Table 4: Japan's Internet user population
Table 5: Percentage of Internet users by gender and age (2000)
Table 6: Diet members with websites and Internet user population in Japan
Table 7: Comparatie website features 2000-2001

Last Paragraph:
While one might be tempted to carry these conclusions forward to argue that the Japanese experience shows the inherently democratizing tendencies of the new ICTs, one should caution against such an interpretation. Although the technology provided a strong impetus to the calls for legislative and systemic reform in Japan, it was the existing configuration of political forces that opened the way for such change. The combination of a regime open to democratic opposition but exerting moderate repression over traditional media created an environment conducive to aggressive and challenging uses of the new media. On a broader level, therefore, these findings are suggestive of the importance of context in determining the magnitude of the Internet's impact on society. Internet technology undoubtedly contains the potential to enact widespread changes on the way that a society organizes itself. Unlocking that potential to significant effect, however, depends ultimately on the right social and institutional conditions.