2 parties to merge with governor's anti-nuclear group; Your Party snubs Ishihara

November 27, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Two political parties, including the one led by veteran Ichiro Ozawa, said they would merge with a new party that is expected to create an anti-nuclear coalition for the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

Within hours of Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada’s announcement on Nov. 27 that she was forming Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), the standing officers council of the People's Life First party held a meeting to determine its course of action.

"We have to decided to join (Nippon Mirai no To),” Kenji Yamaoka, acting party head, told reporters. “We will disband and merge with that party."

Ozawa and other lawmakers formed People's Life First in July after bolting from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan over Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s plan to double the consumption tax rate.

Masahiko Yamada, another lawmaker who left the DPJ, also indicated that his party would join Nippon Mirai no To. Yamada’s party, established on Nov. 19 under a name that expresses his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, nuclear power and the tax hike, merged with Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s Genzei Nippon (Tax-cuts Japan) on Nov. 22.

"We would also like to raise our hands in joining (Nippon Mirai no To) because our ways of thinking are the same," Yamada told reporters on Nov. 27.

Party co-leader Kawamura told reporters, "By having people with similar positions come together, we can create a major coalition of the common people in Japan."

Kada, originally an environmental sociologist, told a news conference earlier in the day in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, that she will build “an axis to bring together political forces to build the future.”

Nippon Mirai no To will pursue six key policy issues, such as phasing out nuclear power and eliminating wasteful government spending before raising the consumption tax.

Kada, 62, will lead the party without resigning as governor.

Tetsunari Iida, a long-time anti-nuclear advocate and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, who worked with Kada on drafting party policies, will become acting leader.

Kada’s goal is to unite anti-nuclear parties and become a so-called third political force to challenge the DPJ and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party in the first national election since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The “third force” title is currently held by the Japan Restoration Party created by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Kada has said she decided to create an anti-nuclear coalition largely because of her disappointment with Hashimoto.

She not only advocated ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy immediately after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but she also opposed the resumption of operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, just north of Shiga, in July.

Hashimoto initially formed a united front with Kada. But he eventually dropped his opposition to the reactivation of the Oi reactors, saying, “It is meaningless to merely hold fast on principles.”

Hashimoto also abandoned his goal of scrapping nuclear power on Nov. 17, when his Japan Restoration Party merged with the Sunrise Party, founded by pro-nuclear former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.

“I have lost a comrade,” Kada told a news conference on Nov. 20. “It was regrettable that (Hashimoto) has backed off.”

But the Japan Restoration Party lost a potential partner because of its merger with the Sunrise Party.

Yoshimi Watanabe, the head of Your Party, told reporters on Nov. 27 that his party would not join the Japan Restoration Party because of policy differences.

"The members of the old Sunrise Party have positions that are totally different from ours," Watanabe said.

The decision came after Ishihara, who is now the leader of the Japan Restoration Party, called on other small parties to ignore “minor differences” and unite for the common cause of challenging the DPJ and the LDP in the election.

Kada’s party, meanwhile, is expected to expand.

Tomoko Abe, former policy chief of the Social Democratic Party who abandoned the party on Nov. 15, said on Nov. 27 that she will join Kada’s new party.

Kuniko Tanioka, co-leader of Midori no Kaze, had earlier said the party could take part in Kada’s coalition “in one way or another,” although Akiko Kamei, another co-head, expressed skepticism about an outright merger.

Kada offered a draft of her plan to form a loose alliance of anti-nuclear parties, comparing it to the Olive Tree coalition in Italy, when she met Ozawa on Nov. 24.

“The next Lower House election is the first to be held after the March 11 disaster, but we have no primary vehicle to accept voters’ call for zero nuclear power,” the draft said.

According to the document, the coalition would seek to establish a legally-binding zero nuclear power program during the four-year term of Lower House members.

Kada on Nov. 27 repeated her concerns that discussions for a nuclear-free society remain uncertain even ahead of the election.

The governor said the LDP created a safety myth about nuclear power and failed to take necessary precautions for nuclear accidents. She also criticized the party's campaign promises that appear intended to promote nuclear power without any reflection on the Fukushima crisis.

Kada also announced a Biwako declaration, saying she must stand up as a governor in charge of Lake Biwako in Shiga Prefecture, which is close to Wakasa Bay in Fukui Prefecture, home to the largest number of nuclear reactors in Japan.

“If I do not issue any message to national politics, I cannot make any excuse for our ancestors who have protected Lake Biwako as well as for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

Kada said she will establish a new axis in politics to provide an alternative for the future and restore the people’s trust and hopes.

The declaration was supported by businessman Kazuo Inamori, musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, actor Bunta Sugawara, journalist Shuntaro Torigoe and scientist Kenichiro Mogi.

But at least one politician dismissed Kada’s new party: former “comrade” Hashimoto.

“A new party is calling for moving away from nuclear power, but we are the only one that proposes specific measures,” he said on Nov. 26. “What we should do is establish rules and checking systems. Other parties are doing nothing but talking.”

Kada was first elected as Shiga governor in 2006 after serving as senior curator at the Lake Biwa Museum and a professor of environmental sociology at Kyoto Seika University. She has worked on environmental issues, particularly as an expert on Lake Biwako.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada shows the logo of her new party in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Nov. 27. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada shows the logo of her new party in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Nov. 27. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

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  • Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada shows the logo of her new party in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Nov. 27. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

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