Monday 10 February 2014

Elections in the Snow

It started snowing on Friday night and didn't stop until Sunday morning. There's about 6 inches in Koriyama and about the same in Tokyo - very unusual, the heaviest snowfall in 45 years. Six thousand people were stranded at Narita airport overnight on Saturday. 

In the driving snow the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto 民主党)still smarting from their defeat in the polls last year held its party conference in Koriyama. With two ex-prime ministers in attendance, the town was crawling with plain clothes police all weekend. The party has proclaimed it will be a viable opposition and as a sop to the locals here is proposing that land where the interim storage facilities for radioactive waste are to be built, should not be nationalised. If the local authorities and landowners don't remain in charge, runs the argument, the stuff will remain there permanently.

Incidentally, that long phrase 'interim storage facilities for radioactive waste' (and by interim, they mean for the next 30 years) is nowadays referred to here simply as 'interim storage' (chukan chozo 中間貯蔵). All this new vocabulary ...

The Tokyo electorate braved the snow on Sunday (well a third of them did) (correction: later the turnout was updated to 46%) and voted in as their Mayor former health minister Masuzoe and not former PM Hosokawa who was calling for an immediate end to nuclear power. He came in third. To give him his due Masuzoe, reflecting 60% of Japanese public opinion, does say he wants to get out of nuclear over the long term - but gradually. The worry of course is that PM Abe will take Hosokawa's defeat as approval for re-opening the idle reactors.

It seems that issues such as the economy, welfare and disaster prevention are uppermost in people's minds. Masuzoe has pledged to cut waiting lists for nurseries and for old people's homes, and to start immediately on anti-disaster work (putting electric cables underground, repairing raised expressways and dealing with high fire risk areas) He's also promised the best Olympics ever in 2020. I guess he's a safe pair of hands. He needs to be. Tokyo commands a budget the size of Sweden and there's a lot to do.
Bye from a snowy Koriyama

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