Critical issues at stake in election

Constiutional revisions, Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a policy on nuclear power are among the most pressing issues at stake in Sunday’s Upper House election. Because the decisions Japan makes on these issues will have a tremendous impact on its future, voters cannot be too careful in deciding which candidates and parties to support.

If the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition captures a majority of Upper House seats, the parties and the Abe administration will have obtained an overwhelming voter mandate, since the coalition already controls more than two-thirds of Lower House seats.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party call for changing Article 96 of the Constitution so the process of amending the supreme law can begin with a concurring vote of a simple majority of all members of each House of the Diet, instead of the two-thirds or more required at present. Such a change would make it easier to imprudently revise the Constitution. The principles of sovereignty resting with the people; pacifism; freedom of thought, speech and expression; and freedom of assembly and association could be weakened or even gutted.

Mr. Abe wants to revise Article 96 because it would clear the way for him to revise the war-renouncing Article 9, which has helped postwar Japan regain the international community’s trust.

While other parties called for an eventual end of nuclear power generation, the LDP supports restarting the nuclear power plants that remain offline in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, even as the ruined power plant there continues to release radioactive substances into the atmosphere. Voters need to consider whether restarting nuclear power plants in this quake-prone nation is reasonable.

Many onsite spent nuclear fuel pools will reach their capacity before long. These pools are extremely vulnerable in earthquakes. When the massive quake that is expected to occur in the 900 km-long Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean finally strikes, how will it affect these pools and other areas of the nation’s nuclear plants?

The idea of storing high-level radioactive waste in geological layers for thousands of years is not backed by proven technology. Nobody can tell what will happen in 100, 1,000 or 10,000 years to the waste containers or to the geological layers where they are buried. Yet the LDP and the power industry remain silent about such problems, only expressing their intention to restart the plants while voicing the slogan “safety comes first.”

The Abe administration is pushing for Japan’s entry into the TPP. The Japan Restoration Party and Your Party also strongly support the idea. Although some backers of the TPP hope that it will destroy economic vested interests in Japan, it is more certain that it will greatly lower Japan’s food self-sufficiency. And the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism of the TPP could place the interests of global enterprises above Japan’s national interests in such fields as social welfare and environmental protection.

Although economic recovery under the Abe administration’s economic policy appears to be attracting voters’ attention, constitutional revisions, nuclear power generation and the TPP are extremely important issues, and voters need to consider them from a longer perspective.

We strongly hope that all voters will study these issues and then cast their ballots accordingly on Sunday.