The Dec. 14 Lower House election is being billed as primarily a voter referendum on economic issues, especially “Abenomics.”
But regardless of what the parties’ Tokyo headquarters say is official policy on various issues, it’s what the candidates and the local party chapters say, or don’t say, out on the campaign trail that wins or loses votes.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s national platform devotes one paragraph to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — that the party is pursuing the most favorable path for Japan’s interests based on previous LDP and Diet resolutions.
But in those parts of the country where the free trade pact is a particularly sensitive issue, local LDP chapters have released their own interpretations.
“We will not allow the abolishment of tariffs on important agricultural items, and that won’t stop us from withdrawing (from negotiations) if these sacred areas can’t be guaranteed. We’ll protect until the end the life and industry of the people of Hokkaido,” the LDP Hokkaido chapter campaign platform reads.
In the Hokkaido No. 11 district, the LDP’s Yuko Nakagawa, 55, is seeking re-election in a district that includes the farm-heavy Obihiro and Tokaichi areas, where anti-TPP sentiment is among the strongest in Japan. She has repeatedly reminded voters of the prefectural chapter’s message, even though opinion about the TPP in Hokkaido as a whole is varied.
“Eastern Hokkaido is generally more against TPP than western Hokkaido and the Sapporo area, which is more like Tokyo,” says Shoko Uchida, a Tokyo-based anti-TPP activist. “People just want cheap agricultural goods.”
In early 2013, a Mainichi Shimbun survey of 480 Lower House members on their attitudes about participating in TPP negotiations revealed that 244 were opposed. The negotiations remain stalled, partially due to the inability of Tokyo and Washington to come to an agreement on agricultural products.
Other issues high on voters’ minds are restarting the nation’s idled nuclear power plants to public concerns about collective self-defense and the new state secrets law.
The national LDP’s platform is more detailed about nuclear power than it is on the TPP, calling it an important baseload energy source. It goes on to talk about the need to obtain local understanding for restarting reactors if they pass the new safety regulations.
In Kagoshima Prefecture, where two reactors at the Sendai plant may be restarted early next year, the LDP’s prefectural chapter has similar language about the need to pass new safety standards. But it also says it will make the maximum effort to obtain the sufficient understanding of residents and local governments, which can be read as broader in scope than merely obtaining the permission of Satsumasendai, the city where the plant is located.
The Sendai plant lies in the Kagoshima No. 3 district, where incumbent Takeshi Noma, who is running as an independent and is wary of the restarts. Noma is facing off against LDP and Komeito-backed Takuma Miyaji in a race that is expected to be close.
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