Tomoyuki Taira, a novice lawmaker, was already thinking about leaving the ruling Democratic Party of Japan before Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that two nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture would resume operations.
The "twisted" words of the prime minister cemented Taira's decision to resign, a move that could spell the end of his political career.
In his June 8 statement, Noda said as many as eight times that he decided to approve the restart of the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in July to "protect the lives of the people."
"All I heard was the voice of government technocrats spilling out of the prime minister's mouth," Taira said in a recent interview. "It was so barefaced and abnormal for a politician to say 'protect the lives of the people' when the lives of tens of thousands of the people have actually been destroyed by the nuclear disaster."
The two Oi reactors will be the first ones reactivated since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March last year caused the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Taira, 52, submitted his letter of resignation to the party 10 days after Noda's announcement.
The physicist-turned former radio personality said Noda's decision to restart the Oi nuclear plant is the most blatant proof that the DPJ has lost every reason to stay in power.
"Though we were entrusted by voters to bring common sense to politics, Noda and all the current executives of the DPJ have degenerated into mere 'speakers' of the bureaucracy, which has revealed its nature as a self-propagating machine," Taira said.
He added: "I see a strange elation in Noda's face whenever he steps over public opposition on the Oi nuclear plant resumption, the consumption tax hike and the signing of TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement)," Taira said. "He probably misunderstands that he is taking responsibility as a man in power, but, at best, he is a convenient speaker for bureaucrats."
Taira, who studied fine ceramics at the graduate schools of Kyoto University and the University of California, Los Angeles, was a hard-line opponent of nuclear power even before the Fukushima accident.
During his versatile career, he was a radio and TV personality and a public works consultant before he won the Lower House seat in closely-contested Kyoto No. 1 constituency in the 2009 election.
But his drive to bring "common sense" to politics hit a dead end when he challenged the nuclear triangle of the power industry, government technocrats and pro-nuclear academics.
Taira said the logic behind Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s "unrealistic" roadmap to decommission the Fukushima plant in 30 to 40 years and the decision to restart the Oi reactors was beyond his understanding.
In the June 8 statement, Noda said, "Even if an earthquake and tsunami similar to the ones that struck Fukushima were to occur, countermeasures and systems are in place to prevent an accident."
But in the same breath, the prime minister said, "There is no safety standard that is absolute," and the government's current standards are "provisional safety regulations" that "will be reviewed when the new system is launched."
Taira said one other characteristic of Noda's recent speeches, including his June 26 statement on doubling the consumption tax rate, is that he uses intimidation rather than sincere efforts to win the public's consent.
To support his decision to restart the Oi reactors, Noda said: "Should we be forced to implement planned power outages or if sudden power outages were to occur, some people's lives would be in danger. Some people would not be able to sustain their work. Some people would lose their workplaces."
Similar warnings were repeatedly issued by government officials and electric power companies, and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and prefectural governors in the Kansai region eventually withdrew their opposition to the Oi reactor restarts.
"I cannot blame them because the pressure from businesses must be far stronger for mayors and governors than for the Diet members," Taira said.
The lawmaker described the DPJ's regime so far as a three-year process of the party falling under the initiative of bureaucrats. He said the decision to restart the Oi reactors and the Lower House's passage of legislation to increase the consumption tax are ultimate victories of the bureaucracy.
"We all had this view that we achieved a historic change with the 2009 election victory and that we would guide Japan through a new era, but it was actually easy for bureaucrats to manipulate someone with such naive elation and optimism," Taira said.
A typical example was the DPJ's "shiwake" budget-screening panel to eliminate money-wasting programs. The program initially became a media sensation, but it brought only minimum results and eventually slipped off the voters' radar, he said.
"While pursuing the politics of performance, we failed to create an alternative paradigm to replace the traditional pork-barrel politics by the Liberal Democratic Party," Taira said. "Now the bureaucracy is emerging as the sole player controlling and propagating its vested interests, and the resumption of the Oi reactors is evidence of this Kafkaesque bureaucracy."
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