Sensing the timing is right, a Japanese version of the environmentalist Green Party has been formed to nudge Japan to abandoning nuclear power by fielding candidates in upcoming national elections.
The inaugural meeting of the party, Midori no To (Greens Japan), on July 28 came as a citizens' movement calling for the abolition of nuclear power plants is gathering steam in the capital and elsewhere following last year's accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“We are considering fielding our candidates in the Lower House election,” Nao Suguro, a 33-year-old member of Tokyo’s Suginami Ward assembly who co-heads the party, told a news conference after the meeting. “We want to create a broad network to accommodate calls for the abolition of nuclear power plants.”
Representatives from the Green Party in Germany and Australia attended the inauguration held in Tokyo.
Scott Ludlam, an Australian senator with the Australian Green Party, said the new party’s challenge is to bring all nuclear reactors in Japan to a halt. He said that if the new party grows into an influential political force in Japan, it will also have an impact globally.
The new party sprang from a political organization called Midori no Mirai (Green Future), comprising about 70 lawmakers in local assemblies and others. The organization was disbanded to form the Greens Japan, with 1,000 members of Green Future joining the new party.
The party intends to field candidates in the proportional representation bloc of Tokyo in the Lower House election, which must be held by autumn 2013, with support from anti-nuclear civic groups.
It plans to field 10 candidates in the Upper House election next summer.
Apart from the abolition of all nuclear power, the Greens Japan is calling for an economy centered on local production and consumption, improved social security programs through fair sharing of tax burdens and increased participation in democratic processes.
The party will work in tandem with the Green Active, an environmental political action group set up in February by anthropologist Shinichi Nakazawa, and the green parties in Europe and other parts of the world.
Yoshinori Hiroi, professor of public policy at Chiba University, said that the Greens Japan is the first party established after civic groups rallied together on conservation and ecology.
“It is significant that a party has emerged to push for policy measures that call into question the foundation of the existing society,” he said.
Hiroi said the party’s future hinges on whether it can take root in the long run, and not just as a passing fad.
The party is eying entry into national politics as interest in the nuclear issue is increasing, shown in part in a signature-collecting campaign in Tokyo calling for a referendum on nuclear power plants.
The campaign collected 320,000 signatures, although the Tokyo metropolitan assembly later voted down the call for putting an ordinance on the ballot.
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