The nuclear debate is likely to take center stage in the closely watched Tokyo gubernatorial elections this month, where the outcome could be decisive for the metropolis’s stance on atomic power.

The issue has been largely absent from the campaign debate in national elections just over a year ago. But former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa, a key contender in the race, is expected to call for an end to nuclear power. This could set off a showdown with a nuclear supporter backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democrats.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Hosakawa will seek alliance with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a popular Liberal Democrat also in favor of a nuclear-free Japan.

Abe said Sunday that nuclear power should not be the main focus of the gubernatorial race—a campaign dominated by the economy and bitter disputes with China.

“Energy issues will of course likely be discussed, but balanced debate is also necessary for other issues that must be dealt with by a Tokyo governor,” Abe told reporters in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

“Energy policy is an issue for not only Tokyoites but all the people in Japan.”

Abe said that key issues in the election will include reducing to zero the number of children in wait lists for nurseries across the country, ensuring the success of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and beefing up measures to minimize damage from disasters, especially with the so-called “Big One” earthquake projected to hit Tokyo.

Tokyo’s government is also the biggest shareholder in Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the crumbling Fukushima Daiichi Plant.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: sebra /