Two veteran politicians hoping to draw support for their small parties are drawing a line in the sand against nuclear power, a key issue in the Dec. 16 Lower House election.
Ichiro Ozawa, who leads People’s Life First, plans to capitalize on the issue to differentiate his party and draw support away from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
People’s Life First, mainly consisting of DPJ defectors, calls for moving away from nuclear power in 10 years in its basic platform. The DPJ advocates allowing idled nuclear reactors to be brought back online, although it aims to halt all reactors by the 2030s. The LDP plans to maintain atomic power as part of the nation's energy policy.
Ozawa, a former DPJ president, gained more separation from his rivals after the Japan Restoration Party, a front-runner among the growing number of so-called "third political forces," toned down its anti-nuclear rhetoric to forge a merger with the Sunrise Party.
The other anti-nuclear player is Shizuka Kamei, former chief of the People’s New Party, who became secretary-general of a new party opposed to joining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, nuclear power and the consumption tax hike.
The anti-TPP party, founded on Nov. 19, is headed by Masahiko Yamada, a former farm minister who defected from the DPJ the same day.
“The government is deceiving the public into believing that Japan has no choice but to depend on nuclear power because it has no intention (of scrapping atomic energy),” Kamei told a news conference on Nov. 19.
Ozawa said he can work with Kamei, who bolted from the ruling coalition in opposition to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s plans to raise the consumption tax.
“We want to advance cooperation with groups and individuals who can share stances on key issues such as nuclear power, the consumption tax and the TPP,” Ozawa told a news conference on Nov. 19.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who established the Japan Restoration Party, has long called for scrapping nuclear power by the 2030s. But he effectively shelved the goal when the party merged with the Sunrise Party on Nov. 17.
Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, founder of the Sunrise Party who has become leader of the Japan Restoration Party, argues against abolishing nuclear power. Hashimoto has become his deputy.
Ozawa said People’s Life First and the Japan Restoration Party are “moving in different directions” on nuclear policy.
He hopes to partner with other small, anti-nuclear parties, such as Your Party and Midori no Kaze (Green Wind).
“We want to fight the Lower House election by joining hands with other people willing to build a new Japan,” Ozawa said. “We will explore possible alliances this week and the next.”
Ozawa already met with Yamada, who is close to the former DPJ president, on Nov. 16, when the Lower House was dissolved and the snap election called.
Yamada, who heads a multi-party group of lawmakers opposed to joining talks on the TPP, voted against the consumption tax hike legislation in the Lower House.
“Ozawa is even prepared to disband (People’s Life First) if he can forge a broad alliance,” a senior party official said.
But whether other small parties will embrace Ozawa’s strategy remains unclear. Ozawa finally cleared his name on Nov. 19 after lawyers serving as prosecutors decided not to appeal a not guilty verdict handed down by the Tokyo High Court over an indictment that he had conspired with aides to falsify political fund reports.
Your Party, for example, is working closely with the Japan Restoration Party.
“Ozawa and his allies only want to take advantage of our clean image,” a senior official of Midori no Kaze said. “There is not the slightest possibility that we will join forces before the Lower House election.”
Midori no Kaze was formed by Upper House member Kuniko Tanioka and other lawmakers on Nov. 15 to press for moving away from nuclear power.
Kamei and Yamada earlier gave up joining the party after Tanioka demanded they accept the party’s draft platform when they met on Nov. 14.
People’s Life First also seeks to team up with Tomoko Abe, a Lower House member who abandoned the Social Democratic Party on Nov. 15. But she plans to create a different framework to push her non-nuclear agenda for the Lower House election.
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