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For women, against reactors

Shiga’s Kada readies party; Ozawa joins

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With just a week to go until campaigning starts for the Dec. 16 general election, Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada formally announced a new political group Tuesday that aims to get Japan out of nuclear power, create more opportunities for women and promote a work-life balance that makes it easier for families to raise children.

Kada immediately gained new recruits, as political don Ichiro Ozawa and his Kokumin Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First) party have decided to disband and join her group.

“I think we’ll merge (with Kada’s party) after dissolving our party,” Kenji Yamaoka, vice president of Ozawa’s party, told reporters.

Kada’s group, Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), seeks to offer voters another third-party alternative to the emerging Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which is challenging the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party.

But with no office, no official candidates and concern among Shiga voters that the party will distract Kada from her duties as governor, cooperation with, and perhaps a merger between Mirai no To and similar-minded parties besides Ozawa’s, in the next few days appears likely.

“We’ll see what parties want to merge with us,” Kada said Tuesday afternoon.

The newly formed Green Wind party as well as a small party led by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura and veteran lawmaker Shizuka Kamei are also considering joining hands with Kada’s new party, lawmakers said.

Kawamura told reporters later Tuesday that “it would be good” for his party to merge with Kada’s party.

Kada heads the new group, and the second in command is the nation’s leading renewable energy expert, Tetsunari Iida of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Iida, who is also adviser to a joint Osaka prefectural and municipal energy committee, has very different political views than Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin deputy leader Toru Hashimoto. He said, however, that he had no plans to run for a Diet seat.

Kada and Iida released a six-point policy platform that includes ending nuclear power, not restarting any reactors currently shut down and pursuing renewable energy.

“The greatest risk of another nuclear plant accident is at the Wakasa Bay area of Fukui Prefecture, which is close to Shiga Prefecture and Lake Biwa and where there is a large concentration of aging atomic plants. Lake Biwa provides drinking water to 14.5 million people, and unless I, as governor, send a message to the central government, I’ll have failed those who came before me who protected Lake Biwa,” Kada said in announcing her reason for pursuing the new party.

Nippon Ishin initially also pledged to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power, but since recently absorbing ex-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s new party and putting him at the overall helm, Hashimoto’s group has dropped this goal.

The role of women, in both the workplace and as mothers, is also a key part of Mirai no To’s platform and one Kada hopes will attract voters turned off by the male-dominated Nippon Ishin.

“There are two differences between my party and Nippon Ishin. First, Nippon Ishin is urban-based, in Osaka and Tokyo, while I’m based in Shiga, a more rural area with different concerns. Second is the importance of the role of women and children in our platform,” Kada said.

She did not announce a merger with any other parties that had similar goals but indicated she hopes to cooperate with Ozawa. As Mirai no To does not have any Diet members officially signed up at present, it is not technically a political party, although that will change if lawmakes defect from other parties to join.

The group also has support from several prominent people, including Kyocera founder and Japan Airlines honorary Chairman Kazuo Inamori and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, both of whom have long been close to Kada. However, whether they will offer Kada more financial support to field candidates remains to be seen.

Information from Kyodo, Jiji added