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Then Let It Be Nuclear

By Michael Penn

SNA (Japan) — Senior members of the Shinzo Abe administration, from the prime minister on down, have already jumped into the Tokyo gubernatorial race to insist that candidates must not appeal to the public in terms of anti-nuclear policy, but instead according to what the government believes are the most “proper” subjects, namely preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and health care policy.

Frankly, it has already been a rather bizarre performance. One would expect in any country the government of the day to tout the candidate that they endorse and to ask the public to support them. But one would be more hard pressed to find a democratic government that attempted to tell the public and the opposition candidates what political topics they may and may not discuss in advance of that election.

One thing that is amply clear is that the alliance between former prime ministers Morihiro Hosokawa and Junichiro Koizumi under an anti-nuclear banner has put a fright into the senior ranks of government and provoked their hostile and outspoken responses. The single most obnoxious comment that was of the arrogant Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari, who insisted that nuclear policy was not a matter for the people of Tokyo to trouble their pretty little heads about, and, then, referring to Hosokawa, told his colleagues, “His lordship has become mentally deranged.”

Naturally, allies of the Abe administration are piling on. The Yomiuri Shinbun, for example, called out one of its limited number of “independent experts” to add academic authority to the prejudices of its editorial board. In yesterday’s case, they wrote:

Regarding the possibility of the anti-nuclear power policy becoming a major issue in the election, Yoshikazu Iwabuchi, a professor at Nihon University and a political specialist, said: “Because of various factors, including the Tokyo metropolitan government being a major shareholder in Tokyo Electric Power Co., it is hard for the issue of denuclearization to become one of the major challenges for the administration of the metropolitan government.”

We can’t quite follow the logic of the Yomiuri editors and Professor Iwabuchi on this one. It seems to us that the fact that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is a major shareholder in TEPCO would absolutely oblige them to take an active interest in energy policy, and not constitute a reason why they must stay away and keep their mouths shut.

At any rate, Hosokawa clearly has an uphill battle ahead of him if he is to win this election: He must convince Kenji Utsunomiya to drop out of the race so as not to split the anti-nuclear, liberal vote; he must fend off attacks on his role in the Sagawa Kyubin scandal of the early 1990s; and he must outperform the sharp and quite plausible moderate conservative candidate, Yoichi Masuzoe.

We aren’t predicting that Hosokawa will succeed in his unlikely quest, but we certainly believe that he and the people of Tokyo are entitled to make the February 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election about any political issue they please.

Michael Penn is the President of the Shingetsu News Agency.