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Nuke policy important even for Tokyo election

November 22, 2012


Nuclear policy splits parties into 2 camps for candidates in Tokyo governor race



The country's future nuclear policy is forcing political parties to back either of two key candidates in the Dec. 16 Tokyo gubernatorial election -- Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose and Kenji Utsunomiya, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

While nine people have declared their candidacies for the top post of Japan's capital, most political parties are throwing their weight behind either Inose, 66, or Utsunomiya, 65. The People's Life First (PLF) party, headed by conservative politician Ichiro Ozawa, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have decided to support Utsunomiya, while the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), New Komeito, the Japan Restoration Party (JRP) and Your Party are backing Inose. Because of the ongoing whirlwind political realignment ahead of the Dec. 16 general election, it was not easy to clearly see each party's nuclear policy. But with the official campaign for the Tokyo gubernatorial election set to kick off within a week, each political party's nuclear policy has become clear.

The three parties backing Utsunomiya have separately pledged to phase out nuclear power within specific timeframes. The four political parties supporting Inose, on the other hand, have not made such specific policy commitments. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is likely to allow its members and supporters to vote freely for any of the candidates.

According to sources familiar with the issue, there were arguments within the PLF against its decision to join hands with the JCP and the SDP in supporting Utsunomiya. But after the merger between the JRP and the Sunrise Party, which were far apart over nuclear policy, Ozawa himself was quoted as saying, "Under the current political situation in which 'third force' parties are forging an unprincipled alliance, it is complete nonsense that anti-nuclear groups are at odds with one another."

The Tokyo Seikatsusha Network, an affiliate of a consumer group, and the political organization Green Party, as well as other groups that advocate zero-nuclear policy, are beginning to join forces to back Utsunomiya. Akihiro Hatsushika, who left the DPJ to join Green Wind, a new political party launched on Nov. 15, is said to be planning to attend a ceremony to open Utsunomiya's campaign office on Nov. 22.

When Inose declared his candidacy for the Tokyo gubernatorial race at a news conference on Nov. 21, he did not make his position clear over nuclear policy although he stressed the need to promote the use of renewable energy. An LDP lower house lawmaker from Tokyo said, "Nuclear policy does not fit in as an issue for the gubernatorial election in Tokyo where there are no nuclear plants."

Toshiaki Eto, a professor at Yamanashi Gakuin University, said, "It is a significant move in which political parties go beyond ideological differences to get together and cooperate on important policies. Energy policy has been an important policy issue for elections since the Great East Japan Earthquake." He added, "Conversely, it could become a message from the Tokyo gubernatorial election to the House of Representative election that 'the nuclear issue is important.'"


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