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Elections and nukes

November 30, 2012
Poll platform revised to pursue new Constitution
Nippon Ishin qualifies nuclear phaseout goal





Staff writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the "third force" emerging as a serious challenger to the political status quo, unveiled a watered-down version of its election platform Thursday devoid of a definitive road map for phasing out nuclear power.

Instead, the party merely stated in a separate document that nuclear power plants are to "fade out by the 2030s" — the same goal that Prime Minister Noda's Democratic Party of Japan has included on its platform.


When Nippon Ishin founder and Osaya Mayor Toru Hashimoto agreed to merge parties with pronuclear former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's short-lived party in late November, Nippon Ishin's nuclear phaseout clause disappeared, prompting speculation the omission would become permanent.

The platform released Thursday also contains a provision for drafting a new Constitution — apparently a concession from Hashimoto, now the party's deputy leader, to the more experienced Ishihara, the unabashed nationalist responsible for escalating the Senkaku dispute with China and Taiwan.

When asked why his party won't present a clear-cut time frame for eliminating nuclear power, Hashimoto said it would take several years to come up with a detailed road map.

"The bureaucrats are the ones who would map out a road map," Hashimoto told a news conference. "Politicians are the ones who show" which direction policies should take, he said, implying that setting a time frame wasn't his party's responsibility.

Ishihara has said the amount of energy the economy actually needs must be calculated before making such a decision. Hashimoto expounded on that.

"Ever since the accident (at the Fukushima No. 1 plant) happened, we have had to re-examine" our energy policy, but "what matters most is whether we can actually realize (a nuclear phaseout)," he said.

The move came a day after Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada officially formed Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party) and said its primary aim will be to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

Nippon Ishin's diluted platform states it will aim to create a nation not reliant on nuclear power, set stricter safety standards and promote the liberalization of the electricity market.

It also says it will promote participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks but oppose them "if it would be against the national interest."

TPP entry is also a DPJ goal.

Nippon Ishin also pledged to draft a new Constitution and ease restrictions on arms use by Self-Defense Forces personnel during peacekeeping missions.

SDF personnel are allowed under the Peacekeeping Operation Law to use weapons only in legitimate self-defense situations. They are forbidden from using arms, for instance, to rescue fellow citizens or counter attacks on other countries' troops.

Before merging with Ishihara's party, Nippon Ishin advocated halving the size of the Lower House to 480 members and limiting their responsibilities to such fields as diplomacy, but Thursday's platform softened that goal to a reduction of 30 to 50 percent.

It also proposed a rule change for the Upper House that would lift the ban on councilors concurrently holding Diet and local government posts — a change that would allow Hashimoto, for instance, to run in the Upper House election next summer while still being Osaka's mayor.

Highlights of the party's platform  

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) will:

Create a Japan-initiated Constitution, as the current one was imposed by the United States after World War II.

Raise the consumption tax to 11 percent and make it a local tax.

Participate in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership but leave open the possibility of withdrawing if the free-trade pact goes against Japan's interests.

Set a monetary policy agreement between the government and the Bank of Japan as part of price-stabilizing measures.

Scrap the rule that bans governors and mayors from doubling as Upper House lawmakers.

Ban politicians from accepting corporate donations while promoting a system to encourage individuals to contribute.



Party leaders debate nuclear energy


The leaders of 10 Japanese political parties took part in an online TV debate on Thursday. They exchanged opinions on nuclear energy policies in the run-up to next month's general election.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, the head of the governing Democratic Party, said Japan obtained nearly 30 percent of its energy from nuclear power before last year's March 11th disaster. He said it will be impossible to achieve zero dependency immediately or even in 10 years.

The head of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe, said stable and low cost power supplies helped Japan to achieve high economic growth.

Abe said the decision on whether to restart nuclear reactors that are now offline should be made in the next 3 years. He said he wants to study the optimal balance of energy sources for the country over the next 10 years.

Yukiko Kada, who leads the newly launched Tomorrow Party, said her party wants to end the use of nuclear power in 10 years. She said she will promote the development of renewable energy sources, and work on energy-saving measures for the entire country.

The New Komeito party's Natsuo Yamaguchi said existing nuclear plants should undergo thorough safety inspections. He said the public's approval will be needed to restart nuclear reactors.

Kazuo Shii of the Japanese Communist Party said his party will make the immediate end of nuclear power a reality.

Yoshimi Watanabe of Your Party said increasing competition in the power industry through drastic deregulation should prompt utilities to give up nuclear power, resulting in zero nuclear dependency in the 2020s.

The Social Democratic Party's Mizuho Fukushima said she hopes to win public support to end nuclear power generation. She said her party will oppose the restarting of nuclear reactors.

Muneo Suzuki of New Party DAICHI said his party will work to end the use of nuclear power. He said constructing natural gas pipelines from Russia and building storage facilities in Hokkaido can provide ample energy sources for Japan.

Yasuo Tanaka of New Party Nippon said thermal and hydraulic power generation can cover Japan's energy needs.
Shozaburo Jimi of the People's New Party said nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority should be allowed to resume operations.

The leaders of the Restoration Party and the New Renaissance Party did not participate in the debate.

The Restoration Party says it will promote the separation of electricity generation and distribution along with other measures to reduce Japan's dependency on nuclear energy.

The New Renaissance Party says it wants to develop renewable energy sources, and will end nuclear power generation in the near future.
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