National / Politics

LDP may lose next election if nuclear exit becomes main issue: ex-PM Koizumi

Kyodo

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the pro-nuclear ruling party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could lose the next Lower House election if nuclear power becomes the main election issue.

Citing recent gubernatorial election wins for candidates concerned about restarting nuclear power plants in Niigata and Kagoshima prefectures, Koizumi said during a recent interview with Kyodo News, “(Anti-nuclear) opinions are beginning to grow . . . that could influence the (next) House of Representatives election.”

If opposition parties unite in fielding anti-nuclear candidates and make a complete phase-out of the country’s nuclear plants one of the top election issues, they can defeat the ruling Liberal Democratic Party by tapping into voter fears following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, Koizumi said.

The current term of Lower House lawmakers expires in December 2018, but some senior LDP officials have said Abe might dissolve the house for an election early next year.

Koizumi, who promoted nuclear power generation as prime minister between 2001 and 2006, has become an active anti-nuclear campaigner. He has repeatedly criticized Abe and the way his government is dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“There is no way that a party that ignores the will of the public can maintain its hold on power,” said Koizumi, who retired from politics in 2009.

Koizumi also said that the main opposition Democratic Party “has not realized that the nuclear issue can be the biggest election issue.”

“The slogans by promoters of nuclear power that (nuclear power) is safe, low-cost and clean, are all lies,” Koizumi said.

He noted that the government would be forced to pour more funds into Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled following the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster, for decontamination costs and for compensation.

The government should give up its nuclear-fuel recycling policy, including the use of the Monju fast-breeder reactor, Koizumi said. The government has not decided on the fate of the trouble-prone reactor, which was intended to play a key role in the recycling policy.

On Abe’s drive to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, Koizumi said it will not be possible due to a lack of sufficient public support.

Koizumi said a breakthrough on the decades-old territorial dispute over a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido will also be difficult as Russia will not accept Japan’s ownership of the islands.

Abe hopes to make progress on the issue, which has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty, when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15 in Japan.