Unterhauswahl 2012 - 16. November
Security in Northeast Asia
Eine kritische Wahl / Notwendige Diskussion zur Atomkraft
Dies wird eine kritische Wahl werden. Wir drucken hier ein Editorial aus der Japan Times und eines aus er Asahi Zeitung ab (beide Englisch) und geben den Link zu einer Ausgabe des GIGA Focus (in Deutsch) dazu. Dort schreiben Patrick Köllner und Anna Yumi Pohl zu Beginn ihrer Analyse:
„Die Regierungsperiode der DPJ stand unter einem schlechten Stern. Die Folgen der Weltwirtschaftskrise, der Nuklearkatastrophe nach dem verheerenden Erdbeben und Tsunami vom 11. März 2011 sowie der angespannten Außenbeziehungen Japans zu China, Südkorea und den USA, die teilweise selbstverschuldet waren, bildeten einige der zentralen Herausforderungen, denen sich die DPJ-geführte Regierung seit dem Jahr 2009 stellen musste. Drei Premierminister haben das Land seit September 2009 regiert und die Hoffnung auf große Veränderungen, die der DPJ zu ihrem spektakulären Wahlsieg verhalf, ist allgemeiner Desillusionierung gewichen. ..."
Prof. Dr. Patrick Köllner ist Direktor des GIGA Instituts für Asien-Studien.
Anna Yumi Pohl hat nach ihrem Studium der Japanologie in Wien und ihrem Masterstudium der Internationalen Beziehungen Ostasiens an der School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London im Oktober und November 2012 ein Forschungspraktikum am GIGA Institut für Asien-Studien absolviert.
Japan Times, November 20, 2012
EDITORIAL: A critical election for Japan
Following the dissolution of the Lower House on Friday, the Dec. 4 official kickoff of the campaign for the Dec. 16 Lower House election is rapidly approaching. With more than a dozen parties competing, voters may have difficulty in deciding how to cast their ballots. But this election is particularly important because it will be held at both a politically and economically critical time and its outcome will determine the general direction of Japan. It will be vital for voters to be critical enough to discern which parties are shouting empty or dangerous slogans and which parties are presenting programs that will contribute to improving the quality of people's lives and stabilizing relations with neighboring countries.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan will face a hard time because it, together with the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, pushed for a consumption tax increase — a policy not included in its election manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election that brought it to power. Although the bill to raise the consumption tax was enacted, whether the tax hike should be implemented at a time when the Japanese economy is in trouble should be an important election issue. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's responsibility is heavy because he chose to dissolve the Lower House at this time, making it impossible for the Diet to enact in time a supplementary budget, which is desperately needed to shore up the economy.
Mr. Noda has decided to make Japan's participation in the Transpacific Partnership free-trade zone a pillar of the DPJ's election manifesto. But the TPP-related talks are shrouded in secrecy and there is inadequate disclosure of information on TPP arrangements that may greatly affect people's lives and the management of local governments. The TPP is far more than just an agreement to eliminate tariffs, and agriculture is only part of the scope that it covers. It is a comprehensive arrangement among participating countries that will drastically change the rules of business, which in turn will force Japan to change aspects of its society and economy that people now take for granted. Voters should strive to learn about the TPP before casting their ballots for parties that support or oppose the free-trade pact.
The coming election is the first to be held after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In view of the disruption of a vast number of Fukushima residents' lives by the nuclear crisis and the large number of nuclear power plants scattered around the country, nuclear power policy should be an important issue. The Fukushima crisis has highlighted the inherent danger of operating nuclear power plants in this quake-prone country. Apart from economic issues related to nuclear power, a question of a different dimension must be asked. Is it right for the Japanese people, who have experienced the tragedies of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima, to continue to rely on technology that utilizes nuclear fission?
LDP leader Shinzo Abe is opposed to the elimination of nuclear power and says that nuclear power stations whose operations are judged safe should be brought back online. The DPJ calls for mobilizing all available policy resources to end nuclear power generation in the 2030s, but its policy contains a contradiction. It calls for the continuation of nuclear fuel recycling to create nuclear fuel from spent nuclear fuel. But nuclear waste storage facilities at power plants are almost full and there is little room to store newly generated radioactive waste. In addition, there is still no technology that can ensure that high-level radioactive waste can be permanently stored in a safe manner. Each party should address problem related to storage and disposal of nuclear waste.
In the midst of the diplomatic crisis between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, some parties are calling for the revision of the war-renouncing Constitution or for the right to exercise collective defense. The LDP, for example, calls for revision of the Constitution to protect "Japan's beautiful national land" and its people. But it must be asked whether strengthening military-oriented approaches will actually enhance the security of Japan and contribute to stabilizing relations in Northeast Asia. Such approaches will deepen suspicions among neighboring countries about Japan's intentions and thus increase regional tension. A revision of the Constitution would likely be regarded by neighboring countries as an attempt to whitewash Japan's past military aggression and would negatively impact Japan's standing in the international community. In times of crisis, some voters are attracted to parties that use strong or violent populist rhetoric. It should be remembered that the aggressive policies of such parties seldom benefit the people.
There are other issues that must be addressed in the election. They include reform of social welfare, reconstruction of the areas hit by the 3/11 disasters and the military base problems in Okinawa. Parties need to write their election manifestos in concrete terms and in a verifiable manner. It is imperative for voters to cast a critical eye on the parties' manifestos and verbal promises, and strive to discern whether parties are using empty rhetoric or lip services or are serious about implementing their election promises.
The Asahi Shinbun, 20.11.2012
EDITORIAL: Parties should detail plans to reduce nuclear power generation
One of the most important policy issues that should be debated extensively during the campaign for the Dec. 16 Lower House election is whether to abolish nuclear power generation in this country or maintain it at a certain level.
The nation's energy policy, which shapes the future of Japan, is one of the biggest points in dispute in the coming election.
NEW CONNECTION BETWEEN PEOPLE AND POLITICS
The disaster that broke out last year at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has made many Japanese people keenly aware of the serious problems with the government's traditional nuclear power policy. They have recognized the inherent risks of nuclear power generation and the sins of politicians and bureaucrats who have been trying to conceal the dangers from the public as vital issues that have direct bearing on their lives.
This new awareness has motivated large numbers of citizens to join anti-nuclear demonstrations in front of the prime minister's office.
A "national debate" on the future of the energy policy that was held this summer was insufficient, but it has created a new connection between people and politics.
A top executive of a major company has noticed a change.
"When you question what electric utilities do in even the slightest way at a government advisory council, you come under pressure from the next day. That has long been the norm for energy policy debate at the government," the executive says. "But we are now finally seeing the emergence of a democratic approach to energy debate, and this is a change that can no longer be stopped."
This "irreversible change" should first be recognized as a common basis for energy policy debate.
When nuclear energy policy is considered from this point of view, one thing is clear: There is no way to expand nuclear power generation.
Under the traditional nuclear power policy--and under the pretext of supporting regional development--the government poured huge amounts of money into depopulated local communities in exchange for their acceptance of nuclear power plants with multiple reactors. But the Fukushima nuclear disaster has exposed the problems and limitations of this modus operandi.
Nuclear safety standards will be tightened significantly, further increasing the amounts of money needed to build nuclear plants.
In addition, it has become clear that few nuclear reactors are actually needed to meet power demand.
All of this clearly justifies reducing Japan's dependence on nuclear energy.
SHOW ROAD MAPS
The parties should offer clear answers to three key questions concerning nuclear power generation.
Firstly, what specific processes and time frames do they have in mind for reducing nuclear power generation, and how will they solve the problem of radioactive waste?
Secondly, what are their blueprints for dealing with the predicament of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the disaster-stricken nuclear power plant, and for the government's involvement in sharing the financial burden related to the accident, such as compensation to victims, the costs of decontamination and the decommissioning of reactors?
Thirdly, how do they intend to carry out reforms of the power supply system, including the separation of power transmission operations from power generation?
The parties should present clear road maps regarding all three questions.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has decided to promise to phase out nuclear power generation by the end of the 2030s in its election manifesto.
However, the party has failed to present details of this initiative along with specific plans and schedules for achieving the goal. Voters doubt the DPJ is really committed to its vision of a nuclear-free society.
Voters also need to hear more details about how the parties would allocate the new financial burden coming from reducing nuclear power generation, such as higher fuel costs. Answers are also needed on how to deal with the United States, which is expressing concerns about Japan's new energy policy, and local governments in areas that host nuclear plants.
These challenges are also shared by New Komeito and other smaller parties, which have pledged to push the nation toward a future without nuclear power.
The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party has been criticizing the DPJ's "zero nuclear power" policy as "irresponsible," but it has yet to make clear its own vision for the nation's energy future.
If the LDP proposes to maintain a certain amount of nuclear power generation, the party should reveal its plans to deal with a growing amount of radioactive waste. It is unacceptable for the LDP to say it "will consider the issue over 10 years" without summarizing its past policy of promoting nuclear power generation.
Another pressing issue is the response to the crisis at TEPCO. The current framework, which puts all the financial burden of dealing with the consequences of the accident, including decontamination costs, on the utility, is unraveling. The situation could lead to serious disruptions in efforts to rebuild and revive devastated communities in Fukushima Prefecture and secure a stable power supply.
The cost of cleaning up the mess left by the accident, which far exceeds the maximum possible amount that can be saved through restructuring measures at TEPCO, will be passed onto consumers either through hikes in electric charges or taxes. How should the burden be shared?
Debate on this issue should also lead to effective reforms of both the nuclear power policy, which is designed to promote production of electricity with nuclear energy by private-sector companies, and the system to compensate for damage caused by nuclear accidents.
RESENTMENT ABOUT 'NO OPTION'
It will obviously be a Herculean task to persuade the public to accept an additional burden.
The same consumers who eagerly cooperated with the government's call for power conservation reacted angrily to TEPCO's plan to raise electricity rates because they had no other choice but to buy electricity from the utility.
The current power supply system, in which electric power companies are allowed to monopolize regional power markets, poses huge hurdles to new entries into the business and the introduction of new technologies.
The administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has decided to revamp the system and separate the operation of power grids from the power generation business to promote the diversification of power suppliers and the emergence of new services. The idea is to secure a sufficient power supply while cutting down nuclear power generation by promoting the use of renewable energy sources and at-home electricity production.
Previous LDP governments put the priority on ensuring a stable power supply through the regional monopoly system and protected the vested interests of existing large utilities. Will the party now change its policy? It should lay out its own vision for the future of the power supply system as soon as possible.
What is baffling is Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. As the chief of the local government responsible for a huge power consumption area, Hashimoto had been expressing support to proposals to slash nuclear power generation and reform the power supply system. But Hashimoto's Japan Restoration Party dropped its "zero nuclear power" plank from its policy platform as his party on Nov. 17 decided to merge with the newly created Sunrise Party, headed by Shintaro Ishihara, who is antagonistic to the anti-nuclear movement.
Hashimoto owes the Japanese voters a clear explanation on what kind of nuclear power policy he plans to pursue.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 19