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2011 March 30 - April 5 [ELECTION]

Local new parties have nothing to say in regard to ongoing ‘national crisis’

April 4, 2011
The national crises arising from the Great East Japan Disaster and the critical conditions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant sharply contrast how each political party is addressing the situation. Japanese politics and society are now facing the task of providing immediate relief to the victims of the major earthquake and tsunami, resolving in the best possible way the crisis at the nuclear power plant, providing reconstruction assistance, building a truly safe nation and safe localities, and deciding how to map out the nation’s energy policy and the limits of an out-of-control consumer society. The simultaneous local elections are taking place with pressing issues in the background.

The Japanese Communist Party is calling for providing immediate relief to the disaster victims and an end to the crisis at the nuclear power plant, initiation of reconstruction work, a change in the Japanese energy policy, and establishment of disaster prevention policies and ensuring social well-being in local communities. In his meeting with Prime Minister Kan Naoto on March 31, Shii made the JCP proposals available at this point. PM Kan expressed his intention to “study” the JCP proposals which include the need to increase compensation to individuals, a reconsideration of the plan to build new nuclear reactors, and the use of the enormous sums of internal reserves held by large corporations as reconstruction funds.

In contrast, the Liberal Democratic, Komei, and Democratic parties are evading publicly addressing these issues. Particularly in regard to the nuclear power plant crisis, these parties are taking “indecisive positions by attempting to obscure the main issue” (Asahi, April 2).

How are the so-called “new local parties” responding? Osaka Ishin-no-Kai, an association represented by Osaka Prefectural Governor Hashimoto Toru proclaims “realizing a new locality management model” as one of its founding objectives. It neither has any policy to propose nor preparedness for such proposals in regard to major national concerns, including how to break through the national crisis and reconstruct the disaster-hit region, and reassess the country’s energy policy.

Osaka Ishin-no-Kai’s authorized handbills only call for a unified system for crisis control in relation to disaster prevention measures. It says nothing at all about the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant which may directly affect Lake Biwa, the fresh water reservoir for Osaka and its neighboring prefectures, in the event of an accident, and other issues concerning nuclear power generation. It controversially calls for a cut by 30% in the number of public officials engaged in water supply, traffic control, and firefighting when the immediate need is to strengthen disaster prevention measures.

All that Osaka Governor Hashimoto can say is that Osaka may serve as a substitute metropolis for Tokyo in the event of an earthquake in the future so that it can support Tokyo. He ignores his responsibility for having reduced the disaster prevention budget by 40%, substantially cut subsidies for emergency medical centers, and sabotaged quake-resistant work for prefecture-run junior high schools.

Osaka Ishin-no-Kai has been calling for the relocation of the prefectural office to the Osaka Bay coastal area. The latest quake damaged a high-rise building at the planned relocation site, showing that the location is unsuitable as a disaster prevention center. It is clear that people cannot place their hopes on a decent future for Japan and Osaka on Governor Hashimoto and his Ishin-no-Kai.

The party stance of “Genzei (tax cut) Nippon (Japan)” upheld by Nagoya City Mayor Kawamura Takashi is all the more unjustifiable. The mayor has not said anything in earnest on relief for the disaster-hit areas, reconstruction, or the nuclear power plant issue. His sole focus is his insistence on tax cuts. Where does he think the reconstruction funds, estimated to be tens of trillion yen, will come from?

In the first place, Mayor Kawamura’s call for a 10% tax cut is marked by its preference to cut the taxes of large corporations and the wealthy. He calls for more cutbacks in social services. The people in Japan are now concerned about issues related to restoration from the major earthquake and the building of a nation and localities in which people can be sure of their safety, and the rethinking of nuclear power plants and the nuclear energy policy. Genzei Nippon has no policy proposals that actually address people’s concerns.

The mass media, which have played up the local new parties, are now showing a change in their commentaries, saying, “People’s interests have turned more to the relief of the victims and disaster prevention, with less interest in a metropolitan Osaka plan or tax cuts.”(Sankei, March 31)

When the social, popular and political concern is changed drastically on how to overcome the present difficulty and build a new Japan, the enthusiasm and reasons for the existence of these new local parties have rapidly faded away.
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