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Ishihara nuke flip-flop puts party in crisis

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

With the kickoff of the Dec. 16 Lower House election campaign just one day away, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is in chaos after party leader Shintaro Ishihara declared Friday that he would revise a promise to abolish nuclear power by the 2030s.

The former Tokyo governor’s declaration is adding to a growing sense in and outside the party that the decision to merge with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s party was a mistake.

At a debate involving 11 party leaders Friday, Ishihara surprised everyone when he said he would revise its promise to phase out nuclear power.

The staunchly pronuclear Ishihara has long had differences on this issue with party founder Toru Hashimoto, who pushed for abandoning atomic power by the 2030s before joining forces with Ishihara last month.

Nippon Ishin’s No. 3 man, Ichiro Matsui, said in Osaka later Friday that the party’s manifesto would not be revised.

“The manifesto was announced in front of everybody, including Ishihara and Hashimoto. It’s the decision of Nippon Ishin no Kai,” Matsui said, even as he admitted that parts of it were not fully explained to Ishihara.

Other parties lost no time in attacking Nippon Ishin. “Changing your basic policy every day like it’s a daily lunch special is, from the viewpoint of other political parties, a problem. It’s not something that will be accepted because it’s Ishihara,” said Jun Azumi, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Finally, Hashimoto responded to Ishihara’s statement Sunday by saying the party “aimed” to see nuclear power abolished by the 2030s, but that there would be no revision to the manifesto wording.

He also conceded that if stringent safety conditions were met it would be possible to restart the existing nuclear reactors.

“If the world’s highest safety standards are in place, along with a system to check the reactors, and a method of disposing of spent nuclear fuel is established, a restart is possible,” Hashimoto said on a TV program Sunday.

But perhaps worse for Nippon Ishin than the nuclear tussle is the growing number of people calling on Hashimoto, publicly and privately, to lead the party back to its roots by cutting ties with Ishihara.

Former trade minister Shigeaki Koga, formerly a close adviser to Hashimoto, spoke for many in the party when he said on his Twitter account that Hashimoto needs to admit he shouldn’t have joined forces with Ishihara and his allies.