The young and the election

Interview with Prof. Motohiro Hashimoto



The House of Councillors election in the summer of 2016 was the first national poll to take place after the voting age was lowered in the previous year to 18 years from 20 years before. University students across the country are eligible in principle to vote. Chuo University called on its students to go to the polls at its official website. Prior to the voting day on July 10, Hakumon Herald interviewed Vice President Motohiro Hashimoto, a professor of the Faculty of Law and a constitutional law specialist, about the campaign.



-Chuo put up a “Let’s go to the election” campaign at its official website. How did you initiate it?



Hashimoto: All of our students are basically aged 18 or older so they are eligible voters. As many of them can cast their ballots in a national election for the first time ever, one of Faculty of Law professors hit on an idea of urging them to think at least once about voting. I asked my colleagues who teach the Constitution at Chuo for comments. While we were discussing those comments, we agreed to call on students to vote in the election after thinking seriously about its meaning. As an initial step, we decided to convey our messages to them. We began the campaign by distributing a leaflet containing our messages at our lecture on the Constitution. Later on, we made it public to the outsiders and put it at our official home page.

橋本 大学生の皆さんは基本的に18歳以上の有権者です。18歳以上に選挙権が認められる最初の選挙が7月にあるので、選挙について一度考えてもらおう、と法学部のある教授から呼びかけがあったのです。本学で憲法を教えている先生全員にコメントを寄せてもらい、選挙とはどのようなことであるかを考えて参加してもらおう、そのためのきっかけ作りとして選挙に対するそれぞれ自分の思いを伝えよう、ということになりました。初めは憲法の授業で配布していましたが、やがて外部にも公表し、ホームページにも掲載しました。


-What do you think about the students’ attitude toward the election?



Hashimoto: According to public opinion polls, around 60% of eligible voters across the country seem prepared to go the polls. I don’t feel junior students are particularly keener to vote. I feel there isn't much difference between generations. The awareness of election among elder voters may probably be just the same as that among voters aged between 18 and 20. My impression is that neither young voters go to the polls because they are young or don’t because they are young.

橋本 世論調査によると全体で60%くらいの人が選挙に行くそうですね。若い学生さんだから選挙に行くということもなく、あまり世代間の差がないのではないかと感じます。日本人全体の選挙に対する意識と18歳や19歳、20歳の人たちの意識は多分変わらないでしょう。若いから行くということはないし、若いから行かないということもない、という印象です。


-So, you don’t necessarily agree when people at large say that the youth’s political awareness is low.



Hashimoto: No, I cannot agree with them. If that contention should be right, I think political parties and politicians are primarily to blame. In other words, they don’t work hard enough to get young people involved in politics and make points at issue better understood by them. However, for example, every young people may take an interest in politics when something that really matters is at issue, such as introduction of conscription. If the government puts off an increase of the consumption tax, young generations have to bear the burden of social benefit in the future, don’t they? Political parties just don’t make such matter an issue. They avoid an issue that may let the young and the elderly antagonize each other. On the other hand, they attempt to ramp up welfare benefits for the elderly. Although a conflict of interests between generations is tremendous, they try not to make an issue of it. If there should be any political parties that dig up the matter and make an issue of it by clarifying who will pay for better benefits for the elderly, I think they are honest and sincere. In conclusion, I think while the youth and the elder are not quite different from each other in political awareness, political parties try not to make an issue of the former’s interests.


橋本 賛同できないですね。仮に若者の政治に対する意識が低いということが正しいとしても、それは主として政治家や政党のせいです。つまりは、若者を巻き込んだり、若者に分かりやすく争点を伝えたりする努力をしていませんよね。しかし、例えば、徴兵制が導入されるなど、具体的に自分の身に降りかかってくるような問題について争われるときには、みんなが関心を持つでしょう。消費税増税を延期するとなると若い世代の皆さんが将来的に高齢者の福祉を負担していくことになりますよね。政党はそのような争点化をしません。大人たちが若者に利害を意識させるような争点化を避けている。その一方で、お年寄りには福祉を充実させている。その世代間の利害対立は実は非常に大きいものであるにもかかわらず、その争点化から逃げています。そこを掘り起こして争点化すれば、つまり高齢者の福祉を充実させるつけを誰が払うのかをわかりやすく伝える政党が出てきてくれば、正直で誠実だと思います。結論としては、若者の政治意識はとくに大人と変わらないと思いますが、政党が若い世代の利害について争点化をしようとしないのです。

-Do you think that the reduction of the voting age was a major change to help younger people have more sense of ownership?



Hashimoto: I would think so. And I also think that political parties and politicians should be more positive about drawing election campaign issues in a manner to help young people like you have a deeper sense of ownership. And it is young people like you that can let them do. For example, if the turnout of the voters aged between 18 and 20 was as high as 70% in the upcoming election, no political parties could be indifferent to younger generations. They will know they can’t get their votes unless they propose policies with greater consideration to their interests. I think that can be a step toward changing the quality of politics. So, young people must demonstrate in the first place that they have this many votes.

橋本 そう思いますし、みなさんのような若い人たちに当事者意識を持ってもらえるような選挙の争点の作り方を政党や政治家が考えていくべきです。そして、それらを動かすのはみなさんです。例えば、今回の選挙で18歳から20歳くらいの人の投票率が70%だったとしたら、それは政党にとって無視できるものではありませんね。若い人たちにきちんと配慮した政策を打ち出さない限り、その層の票をとれないということになります。そこが政治の質を変えていく一歩になってくるのではないかと思います。だからまずは若い層の票がこれだけある、ということを見せつけなければなりませんね。


-Is there any other way for us to have our interests reflected on politics?



Hashimoto: For instance, you can make better use of SNS (social networking service), can’t you? As you already have various tools to send out information, I think you can routinely disseminate your own interests via SNS. That may perhaps become a new form of democracy. In other words, that may help break through the political impasse we see today. I think one of major points for political participation will be a combined utilization of the regular route of voting and the tool of opinion expression such as SNS.


橋本 例えばSNSが使えますよね。情報発信のツールは持っているのですから、SNSで日常的に自分たちの利害を発信するという方法もあると思います。これはひょっとしたら新しい民主主義の形になってくるかもしれません。言い換えれば、そこが今の行き詰まったような政治の状況を切り開いていく突破口になるかもしれません。投票という正規ルートの政治参加の方法と、その背景にあるSNSのような意見表明のツールをうまく使うことが政治参加のための大きなポイントになるのではないでしょうか。