Greens Japan eye parliament on anti-nuke wave

By Takehiko Kambayasahi, dpa

TOKYO — With anti-nuclear sentiment riding high in Japan, a former citizens’ group is taking steps to become a full-fledged political party. Greens Japan, in late July, said it would field candidates in the next election on an environmental platform that includes weaning the country off nuclear energy. It hopes to become the first officially recognized national-level green political party.

There are many obstacles before it can gain any real political power or become officially recognized, but recent protests give some indication of the backing it could enjoy. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Tokyo and other cities to urge the government and citizenry to give up nuclear power, which used to generate one-third of its electricity. The protests followed the meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, about 250 kilometers north-east of Tokyo, since the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Greens Japan was already planning to enter party politics, but the nation’s worst nuclear accident accelerated its participation, party members say, amid the public’s growing dissatisfaction with existing parties’ energy policy. Many people have expressed anger at Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for approving the reactivation of two reactors at a plant in West-Central Japan, despite warnings of faults lines under the complex. The rest of the country’s 50 reactors remained idle, as public resistance has prevented their reactivation after maintenance shutdowns. “There is no way we support Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ),” a demonstrator named Sumiko said, at a recent rally of environmentally minded citizens at the parliament building. “I will support the Green Party.” The group’s Hitoshi Nakayama, a city assembly member in Niigata, said it can win votes “if it is rooted in public opinion and establishes democratic and innovative ideas and policies.”