Monday, July 09, 2012

A Vote for Nuclear Energy in Japan (Maybe)

Despite the fact that it’s a good outcome, there is some room for doubt:

But those favoring restarts took heart in the victory Sunday in Kagoshima of Gov. Yuichiro Ito, a staunchly pro-restart two-term incumbent. The nuclear debate took center stage, with Mr. Ito championing the importance of the local Sendai nuclear-power plant to the southwestern Japanese prefecture's economy, and his opponent, Yoshitaka Mukohara, a local publisher and head of a local antinuclear group, calling for its closure.

Mr. Ito took 66% of the vote to Mr. Mukohara's 34%, according to final results from the prefecture.

That’s the outcome.

Here’s the reason for doubt. Gov. Ito’s general popularity – the story said he won 71 percent in his previous election – suggests that good political instincts played a strong part this time. Maybe an exit poll would show the extent to which restarting Sendai made a difference. In the meantime:

But Gov. Ito successfully made the case that the reactors were central to the area's economy. He called for the restart of the Sendai plant—once Tokyo affirms its safety—and rebuffed any suggestion the prefecture should set up its own advisory board on nuclear safety. His campaign focused on his pledge to uphold "security and stability"—a slogan emblazoned on bright yellow banners held up by his campaign members at many street corners in downtown Kagoshima. The slogan didn't specifically refer to nuclear reactors, but the message was clear.

The argument is good, but the story is determined to see this election as a leading indicator of Japanese attitudes towards their nuclear facilities. Maybe: even leaving aside Ito’s popularity, voters tend not to fasten on a single issue to determine their votes (unless some moral failing has tainted one of the candidates) and we can’t know for sure if that’s happened here.

But if it was a single issue race, score one for nuclear energy. So, we’ll take it – with a caveat.

2 comments:

Joffan said...

But if Mukohara had won - or even come close - you would have heard the cheering and jeering from the anti-nuclear groups from miles away. So it's fair to say that, with such an explicit policy difference between the two choices, that the result did reflect a level of comfort with reactor restart, and it's a much better indicator of opinion than guessing the number of protestors at this or that rally.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point