Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto formally rejected the 55,000 signed petition for a referendum on nuclear power yesterday as reported by Asahi Shimbun, on the grounds that he already asked KEPCO to study ways to phase out nuclear power in Kansai and because organising a referendum would be too costly – however, the same newspaper reported a month ago that Hashimoto “would rather live somewhere else than in this country [Japan]” than not setting up a referendum for what could arguably be a less urgent and life threatening topic, i.e. the pacifist constitution or the right to go to war.
Osaka is technically bankrupt and it could be heard that the city wants to save taxpayers’ money on a referendum, but this loses credibility when the same money is freely spent on another one, which is moreover just bound to make life more dangerous than it is already.
The reason behind this apparent lack of logic is simply that if Japan is allowed to change its pacifist constitution, then it will legally be able to manufacture a whole new range of weapons including mass destruction ones, without having to resort to complicated and less profitable arrangements such as the new joint weapon development agreement with the US. Osaka is on the verge of economic collapse and Hashimoto is promoting the views of companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which used to manufacture zero fighter planes during WW2, and is a major supplier in the Japanese nuclear, space and defense industries. It used to also be a worldwide leader in shipbuilding with shipyards in the city of Kobe for instance but Japan also lost that market to South Korea and China years ago.
As for Hashimoto’s real intentions (in Japanese, his “honne”), Survival Japan consulted a Japanese major newspaper reporter for insider analysis. It would be that Hashimoto and other politicians are sounding their electors’ reactions with such proposals in order to prepare their final proposal for the major elections this summer, as Hashimoto will very likely drop Osaka and apply for the position of Prime Minister. It is also for this reason that the radioactive waste incineration is not in the news of late: Hashimoto knows that this sensitive topic would affect adversely the election outcome, so they will probably not move forward with incineration in Osaka until after the summer. Autumn 2012 will probably see a renewed nuclear industry thrust as well as nationwide radioactive waste incineration – unless a revolution takes place or the whole Fukushima nuclear plant explodes (as everyone who has been following the status of the ongoing disaster knows, this is a serious threat with a pool full of nuclear fuel on the brink of collapsing at reactor no. 4 and the defective cooling of fuel in reactor no. 2 – every morning I wonder if it is still there and so is Tokyo).
Asahi Shimbun – Osaka Rejects Petition For Referendum On Nuclear Power
March 28, 2012
OSAKA–With opposition led by powerful Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, the city council here on March 27 rejected a referendum to put the issue of nuclear power on the ballot, turning down a petition filed by a citizens advocacy group.
Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), a regional political party led by Hashimoto, voted against the ordinance bill calling for a referendum on allowing Kansai Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power reactors back online.
Hashimoto, an advocate for the phasing out of nuclear power, has a huge support base despite heated controversy over the quality of his politics. His Osaka Ishin no Kai holds 33 seats on the 86-member Osaka City Council.
“We are taking seriously the fact that 55,000 people signed up (on the petition),” said Teruo Minobe, the secretary-general of Osaka Ishin no Kai’s Osaka City Council caucus. “But Hashimoto has begun preparing a shareholder’s proposal to submit to KEPCO. We are already heading in the direction of a phaseout of nuclear power. There is no need to hold the referendum at the cost of 500 million yen ($6 million).”
Between December and January, “Let’s Decide Together/ Citizen-Initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power” collected 62,439 signatures in Osaka that called for holding a referendum on nuclear power.
Osaka city’s Election Administration Commission deemed that 55,428 of the signatures were valid. That exceeded 42,673, or one-50th of the number of eligible voters that was required under the Local Autonomy Law to file a petition for a referendum.
Let’s Decide Together submitted the signature petitions to Hashimoto on Feb. 14, but the referendum could only be held if the Osaka City Council approved the plan.
The Osaka city government is the leading shareholder in KEPCO, a regional power utility that serves the Kansai area.
Besides Ishin no Kai, the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Osaka Mirai (a group affiliated with the Democratic Party of Japan) also opposed the bill. The Japan Communist Party was the only political group that backed a referendum.
Hashimoto, a former Osaka Prefecture governor and an outspoken reformist, told the city council on Feb. 20 that he was opposed to holding the referendum. Hashimoto said the Osakans’ will to reduce the dependence on nuclear power was evident from the fact that he was elected mayor in November. He added there was no need to hold an expensive referendum just to ask their opinions on the single issue of restarting nuclear reactors.
Let’s Decide Together also collected signatures between December and March calling for a similar referendum in Tokyo and has said that the number of signatures exceeded the requirement for filing a petition.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, three referendums were held in the past in regards to nuclear power, but all were held in municipalities that either hosted a nuclear plant or were considering hosting one.
Let’s Decide Together’s latest movements are unique because they were staged in urban areas, which are the major users of the power supply. The advocacy group said that the citizens should make their own decisions on the issue of nuclear power generation instead of leaving it up to the central government and power utilities to decide.
The Osaka city government is currently drafting a proposal, including a call for the earliest possible abolition of all nuclear power reactors, to submit to KEPCO’s general shareholders’ meeting.
Asahi Shimbun – Osaka Mayor Advocates Referendum On Pacifist Constitution
February 26, 2012
Toru Hashimoto, the reformist mayor of Osaka who has captured the political spotlight with his Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), is calling for a national referendum on amending Article 9 of the Constitution that prohibits Japan from waging war.
Hashimoto called for two years of national debate on the issue followed by a referendum.
“That is all Osaka Ishin no Kai has to say about it,” Hashimoto said Feb. 24.
He indicated he will include the proposal in his party’s eight-point program to fight the next Lower House election.
Hashimoto said Article 9, which stipulates renunciation of war as a means of settling international disputes, is “as important as the emperor system that defines Japan’s national polity.”
“It’s time for the Japanese people to decide what to do with Article 9,” Hashimoto said.
He said he would first seek to amend Article 96 of the Constitution, which says that any amendment to the Constitution should be initiated by the Diet if two-thirds or more of all members of the Upper and Lower houses vote for it.
In view of that stipulation, Hashimoto said he will limit himself to presenting the process for amending the pacifist clause in his party’s election manifesto and let the public decide the issue.
“It’s not the task of politicians to impose this and that about the amendment,” he said. “It’s up to the public to decide. This represents an opportunity to make a genuine political statement backed by public opinion.”
Hashimoto makes no bones about wanting to see the Constitution revised.
“If the general public chooses to avert self-sacrifice (by maintaining Article 9), they could continue to live in a country like that,” he said. “If so, I would rather live somewhere else than in this country.”