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The (Bi-Partisan) Political Influence Of Japan’s Nuclear Power Industry

Recent revelations in the Japanese press suggest that TEPCO and other Japanese nuclear energy firms contribute heavily to the opposition Liberal Democratic Party. The power companies may have bedfellows in the governing Democratic Party of Japan as well.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was criticized heavily, even by his own party, for his anti-nuclear comments
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was criticized heavily, even by his own party, for his anti-nuclear comments
Philippe Mesmer

TOKYO - The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant is far from being resolved. As a result of the ongoing problems, polls suggest some 70% of the Japanese people now favor ending the country's reliance on nuclear power. And yet so far, Japan's major political parties seem reluctant to side with popular opinion on the nuclear issue.

On July 14, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pronounced himself in favor of "building a society able to live without nuclear power." Admitting that it is impossible to guarantee the safety of nuclear power plants, Mr. Kan proposed a law aimed at developing sustainable energy sources.

His propositions attracted violent criticism, even from members of his own party, the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which forced him to declare that his statements about the end of nuclear power were based solely on "personal thinking."

His decreasing popularity partly explains why he has struggled to impose an open debate on the matter. But another explanation might lie in the close financial ties that exist between Japan's electricity power companies and the political world. As the Kyodo new agency revealed last month, this privileged relationship sometimes pushes the boundaries of legality.

Clearing up "misunderstandings'

In an article published July 23, Kyodo claimed that of the nearly $850,000 the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) received in private donations in 2009, 72.5% came from executives of the nine companies owning nuclear plants. Roughly 30% of those donations came from a single source: the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Japan's largest atomic power utility, TEPCO operates the failed Fukushima nuclear plant.

In response to the revelations, LPD's general secretary, Nobuteru Ishihara, called on members of his party "to clear up the misunderstandings that lead people to think that we attach little importance to the public and a lot to electricity companies." The LPD led the Japanese government almost continuously between 1955 and 2009.

According to Kyodo, the governing DPJ may not have benefited from these types of donations. That's not to say the power companies didn't help elect individual members of the party.

As the weekly newspaper Aera explained, politicians from every political formation have benefited over the years from discreet support by electricity companies, which are believed to use subcontractors in some cases to keep their contributions anonymous. Japanese law also allows contributors to remain anonymous if their donations are less than $2,500.

Elected members of the PDJ may also have received contributions from pro-nuclear organizations such as the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker's Unions of Japan (DENRYOKU SOREN), of which TEPCO's own union is a member. DENRYOKU SOREN is one of the most powerful wings of the RENGO, the Japanese Federation of Unions, which supports the PDJ and its elected members.

Read the original story in French

Photo - Guillaume Paumier

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been left unresolved. Hamas's recent attack has forced politicians to confront facts: the conflict needs a definitive solution. Here's a primer on the two possible scenarios on the table.

Two-State v. One-State Solution: Comparing The Two Options For A Palestinian Homeland

At a art event in Gaziantep, Turkey, aimed at expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Elias Kassem

CAIRO — The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has once again focused the world’s full attention on the Palestinian cause.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Beyond the outrage and anger over the toll of Israel’s war in Gaza and the Hamas attack of October 7, there is a quieter international consensus that has been revived about forging a lasting settlement that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli one.

Naturally, there are the eternal (though largely resolvable) details of how that settlement could be achieved. Yet the so-called two-state solution is very much back in the conversation of international diplomacy.

At the same time, there is another scenario for the Palestinians to have a homeland: to share in a single state with Israelis — the one-state solution. There are supporters and opponents of the two solutions on both sides.

Here’s a look at what’s on the table:

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