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Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012

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Signature event: Hajime Imai, secretary general of the group Let's Decide Together/Citizen-initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power, faces reporters Thursday in Tokyo. KYODO

Antinuke petitioners to lobby assembly

Majority support needed to press for plebiscite on ditching reactors


Staff writer

A citizens' group pushing for a referendum in Tokyo on scrapping Tepco's nuclear reactors has to persuade metropolitan assembly members to back its plan — a daunting, and potentially insurmountable, step.

"It depends on how each metropolitan assembly member views the issue. After (Tokyo Gov. Shintaro) Ishihara's (critical) comments (in December), it's clear he doesn't support the plan," Eiko Nakamura, head of the group Let's Decide Together/Citizen-initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power's Tokyo branch, said Friday.

"Seeing as a majority of assembly members will likely go along with Ishihara's (position)" it will be tough to persuade them otherwise, Nakamura said.

Ishihara in December called the group's campaign "sentimental and hysteric" and has shown no indication that his stance has changed, dimming the prospects of a referendum actually taking place.

The group started collecting signatures from Tokyo residents Dec. 10 to hold a vote on abolishing nuclear reactors in Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s service area.

The campaign ended Thursday, and the group announced it had collected about 250,000 signatures — more than enough to ask the governor to submit an ordinance to the metropolitan assembly for a plebiscite on nuclear energy.

But a majority of assembly members must vote in favor of the proposal in order for a referendum to be held, and Nakamura said the group plans to lobby each one individually.

"I think that assembly members can't make entirely independent decisions because they have to vote in line with the policies of their political parties. So we must press each member to find out their own opinion, and lobbying them will be crucial," she said.

Her group plans to submit the signatures to the electoral council in each municipality in Tokyo for verification, and if the number of valid signatures exceeds the legally required minimum, the group will ask Ishihara to submit an referendum ordinance to the metropolitan assembly.

"A plebiscite is a way for all citizens to express their opinions on an equal footing, regardless of their beliefs. . . . I believe that's very important," Nakamura said.

The group has also been collecting signatures in the city of Osaka to hold a referendum on atomic energy in Kansai Electric Power Co.'s service area, and says it now has enough to ask Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to submit a plebiscite ordinance to the municipal assembly Monday.

"We've been handing out fliers to assembly members in Osaka and making phone calls to each member asking for their support . . . but I don't know" what the outcome will be, the group's Nakamura said.

Another signature drive for a nuclear referendum is planned by the group in Shizuoka Prefecture, and will likely start around the end of March.



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The Japan Times

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