Monday, December 17, 2012

Pro-Nuclear Party Wins Big in Japan

They have elections:

More than 20 months after a catastrophic nuclear disaster that triggered massive protests against atomic energy and fueled public opinion polls backing the phase-out of reactors, a pro-nuclear party won Japan’s parliamentary election.

The result left anti-nuclear proponents in shock Monday, struggling to understand how the Liberal Democratic Party not only won, but won in a landslide.

Japan has a parliamentary system. This election was for the lower chamber, like ours called the House of Representatives, and elected by direct vote. The upper chamber, the House of Councilors, has a rather complicated system for election (part proportional based on party, part direct based on candidate). The House of Representatives will select a new Prime Minister later this month.

In any event, you might wonder if this means that the accident at Fukushima Daiichi has receded as an issue. Probably not – the Japanese national paper the Asahi Shimbun, polled the attitudes of voters and came back with interesting if not very heartening results:

The Asahi Shimbun approached voters nationwide who had cast their ballots in the Dec. 16 Lower House election to find out if they supported "scrapping nuclear power immediately, "gradually phasing out nuclear power altogether" or "not pursuing zero nuclear power."

Fourteen percent chose scrapping nuclear power immediately, and 64 percent picked gradually phasing out nuclear power altogether.

Fifteen percent of the respondents said they do not want to pursue zero nuclear power.

An explicitly one-issue, anti-nuclear energy caucus, called the Tomorrow Party, fizzled almost completely, winning nine out of 480 seats. To me, that suggests that Japanese voters are not one-issue partisans – the economy no doubt weighs as heavily there as here, for example. Beyond that, despite a multi-party system, the Japanese tend to favor the centrist Liberal Democratic Party (the big winner this time and most of the time), with opposition coalitions sometimes taking the reins of power.

So this is what one might call a status quo election. The Prime Minister selection will be worth attending, as Japan burns through PMs alarmingly fast, whichever party is in charge. That can lead to a vacuum where policy should be.

“I really wonder if the people who voted for the Liberal Democrats really know what their policies are,” said Kawakami, who along with other skeptics fears the Liberal Democrats will boost hawkish nationalism, raise taxes and favor big business over the little guy.

That sounds like one of our Presidential elections, with different issues. The opposition party always thinks the winning party will destroy the nation and that the foolish electorate didn’t understand the foul villainy it unleashed with its votes.

Most of all, they fear the Liberal Democrats will restart the nation’s 48 working nuclear reactors that are still offline, except for two that are back up, since the disaster.

Well, that’s how it goes. Elections have consequences and all that. Not to be too airy: I cannot guess what Japan will do with its nuclear plants and it would be presumptuous to try. However much it would be good for Japan to bring them back online – and it would be - it’s something that has to be left to them. 

3 comments:

Marcel F. Williams said...

Japan is much more frightened of being economically dominated by China than they're afraid of a domestic nuclear power industry that managed to kill-- no one-- despite three meltdowns in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters in Japanese history.

Marcel F. Williams

jim said...

At least now they've a PM who's halfway reasonable and open-minded. Let's hope things follow-up with some healthy nuclear education for him and them. One small caveat with this article. Not nitpicking words, but "catastrophic nuclear disaster". A catastrophic failure is apt tech status description, but a "disaster" suggests a massive loss of life and property (like a plane crash or oil/gas explosion), neither which has occurred at Fukushima.

Keep up the good work!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

SteveK9 said...

'catastrophic nuclear disaster' ... a cut and paste term which can hardly be described as accurate.