Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa may come out of retirement to run for Tokyo governor on an anti-nuclear platform, a move that could push Japan’s energy debate back into the national spotlight, while shaking up the gubernatorial race.
Mr. Hosokawa’s name is already etched in Japan’s political history for previously realigning the political landscape when he helped end 38 years of single-party rule in Japan in 1993. Media reports say he is now seeking to gain the support of another popular former prime minister who has recently become a vocal critic of nuclear energy — Junichiro Koizumi.
An anti-nuclear duo of former premiers could pose a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Mr. Abe has proposed re-starting the nuclear reactors that went offline following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, once they are deemed safe by the country’s regulators.
In the Tokyo election, the LDP has already decided to throw its support behind former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe — a candidate who until now was considered the front runner in the Feb. 9 election. The vote is being held to replace disgraced Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who stepped down last month over a money scandal. But Mr. Hosokawa’s candidacy, especially if he is backed by Mr. Koizumi — one of Japan’s most popular prime ministers before he stepped down in 2006 — could be a game-changer.
Reflecting the government’s desire not to see nuclear energy policy emerge as a major election issue, the Abe administration’s top spokesman said he believed the campaign will focus on the Olympics and health care issues.
“It all depends on what Tokyo voters’ concerns are, but I believe the issues on their minds are the Olympics and social welfare in an aging city,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Friday. He also denied the possibility that the race could have an effect on national energy policy.
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