Special to The Asahi Shimbun
Since I was a member of (the now-defunct) New Party Sakigake, I have been dealing with environmental issues and the problem of nuclear power generation. In 2002, we renamed Sakigake to Midori no Kaigi and had addressed the environment as the most important theme. However, in the 2004 Upper House election, we lost all our seats and disbanded. In Japan, nuclear power generation and environmental problems did not become major political issues.
Politicians did not have knowledge about nuclear power generation, either. As an Upper House member, I organized a nonpartisan group of Diet members seeking the establishment of nuclear safety regulations. But only a handful of lawmakers took part. Others looked at us with disapproval. Most politicians simply thought of nuclear power plants as a kind of public works project.
If politics is divided between the Liberal Democratic Party for nuclear power generation and the Democratic Party of Japan against it, it would be easier for the public to make a choice. But in reality, the parties have become quite similar because they both want to broaden their support bases as much as possible.
I want to tell them both to get out.
The current election system is making it difficult for politicians and parties with new ideas to emerge. In particular, the single-seat constituency in the Lower House shut the doors to a path to send people with diversified backgrounds to the Diet. Under the previous multiple-seat electoral system, the lineup was much more colorful because candidates with original ideas could win as the fourth or fifth choice.
Unless we change the election system, we cannot change the Diet. If we can change politics, change should start at the local level. Since local assembly members do not require so many votes to win seats, candidates who present their own visions and are recognized as competent can be elected.
Local assembly members and government heads who are creative as producers of TV programs and movies can emerge and propose original ideas aimed at improving everyday life in the local community and protecting the environment.
Such people should get together to form regional political parties that are not related to national ones. Germany's Alliance '90/The Greens also started out as a local party.
In April, Nobuto Hosaka, who called for parting with nuclear power generation, was elected mayor of Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. Already, instruments have been used in the ward office and elementary and junior high schools in the ward to measure radiation levels.
What an individual Diet member can do is limited, but a local government head can implement concrete measures. With 880,000 residents, Setagaya is bigger than some prefectures in terms of population. Its mayor has great influence.
What is needed from now is "politics with actual feelings." Instead of having the central government abruptly introduce systems, political decisions should be made with the participation of ordinary citizens. The process should be transparent so that citizens can see who is doing what. Otherwise, the problems of nuclear power plants and the environment cannot be solved.
In Japan, the public has been left in the dark about nuclear power generation. In Europe, since facts and materials are put before the public, countries can develop nationwide debates on whether to promote or abolish nuclear power generation. But in Japan, the government has kept information from the public, and the media has also failed to actively report what is going on.
As society stands, we cannot live without electricity. The problems with electric power and energy are directly linked with democracy. The public should have the right to take part in deciding what energies to use.
(This article was compiled from an interview by Satoshi Ozawa.)
* * *
Atsuo Nakamura is an actor and a former Upper House member, who served from 1998 to 2004. He also served as representative of Midori no Kaigi and recently published the book "Kanso naru Kuni" (A simple country). He is best known for playing the lead in the serial television period drama "Kogarashi Monjiro."
- « Prev
- Next »