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Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012

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Practice pose: Leaders of 11 parties vying for Lower House seats in the Dec. 16 general election hold hands Friday in Tokyo before a policy discussion. AP

ELECTION 2012

Media grill party chiefs in televised debate


Staff writer

With campaigning for the Lower House election set to kick off in a few days, the leaders of 11 parties gathered for a televised discussion Friday that saw most of the questions thrown at Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe, whose party leads the opinion polls.

The 2½-hour event at the Japan National Press Center in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, unveiled the leaders' policy stances, which varied considerably on the issue of nuclear power.

Friday was their second joint encounter since an online talk hosted Thursday by video-streaming site Nico Nico Douga, their first such debate on the Internet. Friday's session was longer and provided them more time to respond to each other and to the press.

The debate was enlivened by a policy flip-flop committed by Nippon Ishin no Kai leader and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara just a day after the party unveiled its revised campaign platform. The move cast more doubt on whether he and its founder, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, now its deputy chief, are truly on the same page.

The platform released Thursday stated that the use of nuclear power "would fade out in the 2030s" with the liberalization of the electricity market. Ishihara said that was an error.

"I'll correct such a platform. We should think about whether to reduce nuclear energy based on a simulation" of energy policy, Ishihara said.

Nippon Ishin's energy policy has shifted a few times, reflecting the conflicting priorities of Hashimoto, who advocates a nuclear phaseout by 2040, and Ishihara, who is leery of parting with atomic power.

On the same issue, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his Democratic Party of Japan will "aim for no dependence on nuclear power by the 2030s and invest as many resources as possible" to reach the goal. "We'll steadily strive to end the use of nuclear power," Noda said.

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who just founded Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party), said her party will abandon nuclear power by 2022 but failed to explain how electricity supply would be managed during the nuclear phaseout.

"The key is to find the best mix" of energy resources for the country, Kada said, using a term coined by Abe. She vowed to promote the development of alternative energies and continue Japan's reliance on fossil fuel as well.

Kada also stumbled over a question on the economy, responding only that the increased employment of women would help revitalize Japan.

While most of the parties vowed to abandon atomic power, Abe said that although the previous LDP-led government should not have blindly believed in the nuclear safety myth, he said Japan should not immediately terminate its use.

"There's an issue of used nuclear fuel in the world. We need to secure experts to contribute to that issue," he said.

The other participants in the debate included Natsuo Yamaguchi of New Komeito, Shozaburo Jimi of Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), Yoshimi Watanabe of Your Party, Kazuo Shii of the Japanese Communist Party, Mizuho Fukushima of the Social Democratic Party, Muneo Suzuki of Shinto Daichi, and Yoichi Masuzoe of Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party).



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The Japan Times

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