CRUCIAL VOTE: Parties clearly divided on nuclear policy as overall emphasis in campaign declines

July 11, 2013

By ATSUSHI HIROSHIMA/ Staff Writer

The nuclear issue is losing energy among candidates of the major parties running in the July 21 Upper House election.

While a clearer division of opinion on nuclear energy policy has emerged, the overall emphasis on that issue during the campaign has also decreased sharply, according to a recent survey of candidates.

The survey was conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun and a research team at the University of Tokyo led by Masaki Taniguchi, a professor of Japanese politics.

The results of the survey were compared with a similar one conducted of candidates who ran in December's Lower House election.

That comparison found that candidates of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have become more inclined toward promoting nuclear energy, while those from the Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito have become more cautious about resumption of operations at idle nuclear reactors.

Candidates were asked to give their position on a five-grade ranking on two issues related to nuclear policy: the resumption of operations at reactors that have been offline for periodic inspections and the goal of zero-percent electric power generation through nuclear energy by the 2030s.

LDP candidates both in the December Lower House election and this time leaned in favor of resuming operations and opposed the zero-percent objective. However, in the recent survey, there was an increase in the percentages of those who favor resuming operations as well as those who are cautious about pursuing the zero-percent goal.

That finding likely reflects the fact that the LDP has clearly stated in its Upper House campaign platform that it will work toward resumption of nuclear reactor operations.

Candidates for the Japan Restoration Party still tend to oppose resumption of operations and tend to favor a zero-percent goal for nuclear energy. However, like the LDP, candidates for the Japan Restoration Party have moved closer to promotion of nuclear energy this time around.

There has been a major shift among DPJ candidates. While their position on resumption of operations was more neutral in the December Lower House election, a much clearer stance in opposition to resumption has been taken for this election.

The previous stance was a reflection of the fact that the DPJ-led government of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had approved resumption of operations at two reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture. However, now that the DPJ is in the opposition, candidates have been freed up to take a clear stance that differs markedly from that of the ruling LDP.

New Komeito candidates have become more cautious about a resumption of operations. Candidates from Your Party and New Party Daichi have also strengthened their opposition.

Candidates from the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party have been consistent in their opposition. All candidates from the People's Life Party and Green Wind are also opposed.

The survey also asked candidates to select the three policy issues they would emphasize during the campaign.

Compared with the December Lower House election, the overall percentage of candidates who said "nuclear power and energy policy" declined from 47 percent to 30 percent.

While only 6 percent of LDP candidates chose that policy issue in the Lower House election, the figure dropped to 4 percent this time.

Even among DPJ candidates, emphasizing nuclear policy has declined from 36 percent to 19 percent, while among New Komeito candidates there has been a decline from 22 percent to 5 percent.

Among Your Party candidates, the number has fallen from 78 percent to 47 percent, while for Japan Restoration Party candidates there has been a decline from 16 percent to 5 percent.

With the much lower interest in nuclear policy, there does not appear to be much discussion of it during the campaign.

By ATSUSHI HIROSHIMA/ Staff Writer
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