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Saturday, May 12, 2012
Group dumps Tokyo antinuke plebiscite petition on Ishihara
By MIZUHO AOKI
A citizens' group has submitted a petition to Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara demanding he create an ordinance to allow the capital to hold a local referendum on the abolition of nuclear power.
The petition submitted Thursday was signed by 323,076 Tokyo residents, far in excess of the legal minimum of 214,000 required to request the metropolitan government to hold a referendum.
The metro assembly is expected to discuss the matter next month. If a majority of assembly members back the proposal, a plebiscite will then be held.
Under the proposed ordinance, all Tokyo residents aged 16 or above, including permanent foreign residents, would be asked to vote on whether to allow Tokyo Electric Power Co. to continue operating nuclear power plants.
But the chances of winning such support in the assembly appear grim, given Ishihara's oft-stated opposition to the proposal.
"As I have said before, I believe nuclear power plants are something that should not be discussed as a black or white issue," Ishihara told reporters Friday in Tokyo.
"I think this kind of way to decide things is risky. Why do we need to hold a plebiscite only on this kind of issue?" he asked. "The metropolitan assembly exists (for deciding such matters). So why don't we have a calm discussion about it at the assembly?"
Eiko Nakamura, head of the group's Tokyo branch, is all too aware of the obstacles that lie ahead.
"Considering Ishihara's past remarks, we know it will be difficult to gain approval from the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito (the ruling bloc in the assembly)," Nakamura told The Japan Times on Friday.
"But what we really want to say to them is to think about it regardless of the policies of their political parties."
Although the group — Let's Decide Together/Citizen-initiated National Referendum of Nuclear Power — has been lobbying assembly members over their proposal during the past months, only a few LDP members have even made time to meet with them so far and no one from New Komeito has been available, Nakamura said.
"The reality is that we've been meeting mostly members of the Democratic Party of Japan. . . . We can't even make an appointment with many assembly members over the phone," Nakamura complained.
But even if the proposal is voted down by the assembly, Nakamura said the group's efforts won't have been a waste of time.
"I believe many people found out about plebiscites for the first time because of the movement and media coverage — that there is a way to decide on things directly,"she said.
"As residents of Tokyo, the nation's No. 1 consumer of electricity, we must think about whether we want to retain nuclear power. We have a responsibility to voice our opinions," she added.
Prominent public figures are supporting the group's campaign, including poet Shuntaro Tanigawa, novelist Jiro Asada, manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and broadcaster Peter Barakan.