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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

LDP arguments often "incoherent"

March 6, 2016


INSIGHT: LDP warns of crises, but not the one at home



By HIROHITO OHNO/ Director of The Asahi Shimbun Editorial Board

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party argues the Constitution of Japan should be amended to include provisions on emergency situations. But the party’s argument, once again, is incoherent.

According to the LDP’s commentary in Q&A format on its draft of an amended Constitution: “The provisions would allow, among other things, an emergency situation to be declared and the prime minister or other officials to be temporarily empowered to deal with the emergency situation in case a military contingency, a large-scale disaster or other circumstances has taken place.”

“Has taken place” sounds odd. Japan has always been in the midst of an emergency situation since that fateful day five years ago. It’s not that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster “has taken place.” It “is taking place.”

The government’s “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation,” issued immediately after the disaster started, has never been lifted.

The generation of huge amounts of highly radioactive water at the nuclear plant has not been brought under control. And what has become of the melted nuclear fuel is anybody’s guess.

Plans to send in robots to determine the location and situation of the melted fuel have not progressed as desired. As many as 7,000 workers are doing their best every day to bring the situation under control, but the end is nowhere in sight.

Still, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is rushing to restart nuclear reactors, although emergency evacuation routes have yet to be finalized and evacuation drills have been insufficient.

It is quite difficult to find any consistency between the reactor restart decision of the administration and the headlong way it is seeking to establish the emergency situation provisions.

I met Ulrich Beck (1944-2015), an erudite sociologist known for his theory of “risk society,” in Munich two months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011.

The argument that the catastrophe was caused by a natural disaster “is ... categorically a mistake,” I remember him saying at the time. “The decision to build an atomic industry in the area of an earthquake is a political decision; it’s not done by nature.”

He argued that a natural phenomenon turned into a disaster precisely because humans had brought risk to that area.


The current administration says it wants to be prepared for risks, but it does not appear to be looking squarely at the true situation.

This is not the first time the Abe administration has appeared incoherent. It was just as incoherent when it railroaded the security legislation bills through the Diet last year.

The Abe administration has repeated the slogan “proactive pacifism” and emphasized unrealistic scenarios, such as a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East and a Japanese mother and her children forced to flee from a military encounter.

That said, the administration has shown little interest in the huge numbers of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East, even though their mass exodus not only represents a humanitarian issue but also constitutes a crisis that is shaking global stability.

Real emergency situations are posing serious challenges to political leaders although solutions are not readily available. By contrast, the administration’s imaginary emergency situations are nowhere to be found.

When the national security bills were before the Diet, conservative politicians and commentators reiterated, “Abide by the Constitution, and the nation will be lost.”

They also churned out an air of vague anxiety to win public support, a favorite trick used in all ages and countries by those in power.


The LDP also argues that a military contingency or a disaster that obstructs voting in a Lower House election could lead to a Lower House devoid of all members. The party says emergency provisions should be in place to prevent such a situation from occurring.

But if the party is so concerned about a vacuum of lawmakers in case of an emergency, then why are party members calling for a snap Lower House election to be held on the same day as the Upper House election this summer?

If simultaneous elections are held for both chambers of the Diet, all Lower House members and half of the Upper House lawmakers, up for election, would be outside of parliament engaging in election campaigns.

That would create a greater vacuum of lawmakers than if only one election is held.

This is probably more proof that LDP officials’ talk of “emergency situations” refers to imaginary scenarios that they are not concerned about after all.

If they were really worried, they wouldn’t dare hold a double election.

They argue that a potential vacuum in the legislature poses a major risk, but they are quite nonchalant about a greater vacuum that would result from a double election.

Those pushing for constitutional amendment in this manner are hardly deserving of the description of “having a strong sense of responsibility,” a phrase that Abe has used to describe them.

By HIROHITO OHNO/ Director of The Asahi Shimbun Editorial Board


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