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Nuclear power an election battle issue in Tokyo

ballot-boxSmflag-japanTokyo governor race turns into battle over nuclear power,, 24 Jan 14By Jonathan Soble in Tokyo Fighting to be heard over the video screens that pummel Tokyo’s Shibuya district with adverts for pop bands and mobile-phone services, Morihiro Hosokawa, the 76-year-old former Japanese prime minister and anti-nuclear campaigner, launched his bid this week to be Tokyo’s next governor.

Mr Hosokawa has returned to politics after two decades of quiet retirement, a period in which he rarely spoke in public and, when he did, talked mostly about pottery, his late-life passion. His motives are reflected in his election strategy: to transform the February 9 vote from a contest for an important but limited municipal governorship to a referendum on Japan’s post-Fukushima energy policy.

This is more than just a Tokyo election,” he told a crowd of supporters and curious onlookers in Shibuya on Thursday, the first day of the formal campaign. “It’s going to decide the fate of Japan.”…….

To assuage voter concerns about the economy, Mr Hosokawa has enlisted Junichiro Koizumi, another former prime minister who is a recent convert to the anti-nuclear cause. Appearing alongside Mr Hosokawa on Thursday, Mr Koizumi, a member of the pro-business LDP, promised that Japan could have economic growth without atomic power, and pointed to the huge costs of the Fukushima clean-up to counter the view that nuclear plants provide low-cost energy.

“Nuclear power isn’t safe, and it isn’t cheap,” he said.

Such statements drew the most applause in Shibuya. “This Tokyo election is a big moment,” said Muko Muto, 49, an office worker who described herself as an opponent of atomic energy. “Pro-nuclear groups are trying to scare people by saying we can’t afford to give up nuclear power.”

Mr Hosokawa has other obstacles to overcome, however. The anti-nuclear vote is likely to be split between him and the Communist candidate, Kenji Utsunomiya, a human rights lawyer and former head of the Japan Bar Association……..

Mr Hoshi, the Asahi columnist, says Mr Hosokawa’s greatest electoral strength may be a growing sense among voters that Mr Abe’s conservative government is overreaching. The national opposition is in tatters and Mr Abe is pushing what many see as an increasingly rightwing social and security agenda, exemplified by his visit in December to the Yasukuni war shrine and the passage of an unpopular official secrets law.

“Hosokawa really has two goals,” Mr Hoshi says. “To end nuclear power and to create some kind of competition for the Abe government and its policies.”


January 27, 2014 - Posted by | general

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