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Hundreds of thousands of signatures ignored

June 19, 2012

Tokyo metro assembly votes down proposed nuclear reactor restart referendum bills



A citizens group demand that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government hold referendums on the restart of idled nuclear reactors went down to a narrow defeat in the metropolitan assembly committee on June 18.

Parties backing Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, including the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito, voted down the original bill, as well as two revised bills on the referendums put by opposition parties at the metropolitan assembly's general affairs committee. If passed, the bills would have required the assembly and the metropolitan government to make efforts to implement policy reflecting the results of local referendums on the restart of reactors run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

A full assembly vote on the original referendum bill is scheduled for June 20, though with the ruling parties holding a solid majority it is likely to be defeated.

A similar bill was rejected by the Osaka Municipal Assembly in February.

The citizens group "Minna de kimeyo 'genpatsu' kokumin tohyo" (Let's everyone decide on nuclear power national referendum) collected 323,076 signatures on a petition to have the proposal put to the Tokyo government in May this year under the Local Autonomy Law; well above the just over 210,000 necessary.

In submitting the bills to the metropolitan assembly, Gov. Ishihara wrote in his opinion that "deciding on the restart of nuclear reactors is the responsibility of the central government."

After the June 18 vote, Akira Miyazaki, secretary-general of the LDP's Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly caucus, explained his party's opposition to the bill, saying, "A steady electricity supply is essential to protect the economic activities of Tokyo's small- and medium-sized businesses and the livelihoods of its citizens. Energy policy is an issue that must be discussed on a national scale, and not something for individual local governments to get involved with."

Meanwhile, Yoshio Nakajima, secretary-general of Komeito's metropolitan assembly caucus, called the vote "the result of careful discussion within our assembly bloc." However, he also stated that "regarding the movement to build a society freed from dependence on nuclear power," his party was "in agreement" with anti-nuclear Tokyoites and wanted to "work toward that end."

Opposition parties, meanwhile, were bitterly disappointed at the bill's failure, particularly as the proposal was backed by over 320,000 signatures.

"It's sad that even the revised bills put together by the assembly factions were defeated," said Taro Yamashita, secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) caucus.

Nobuo Yoshida, leader of the assembly's Communist Party members, said that he could "feel the anger at this result, which ignored the people's intent.

"Even if a referendum isn't held, we must deepen discussion on the restart of nuclear reactors," Yoshida added.

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