Fall 2007 World

Japan: First National Level Election Win
Optimism For Forming National Party

by Satoko Watanabe
Kagawa Prefecture MP, Co-Spokesperson of the Rainbow and Greens Japan

928837586_c24bb0edce_small.jpg “In the most recent municipal and prefecture elections, candidates from the Rainbow and Greens and the Greens Japan together won 122 seats in local assemblies out of the 159 races they contested.”

The history of the Greens Japan and the Rainbow and Greens Japan
For many years going back to the early 1990s, there have been various attempts to form an official Green Party in Japan. But the high barriers of the Japanese electoral system have made starting a new party difficult. Recent efforts by grassroots Greens however are bringing this dream ever closer to fruition.

Currently two Japanese Green movement groups participate in electoral politics. The older is the Rainbow and Greens Japan, founded in 1998, as a network of Green-thinking independent local politicians and active citizens longing for political reform. They started with about 250 members, including 120 local legislators, and the Mayor of Hiroshima as an honorary member.

Many then attended the 2001 Global Greens meeting in Canberra, Australia, giving themselves a chance to identify as Greens before the global Green community. Their positive experience there encouraged them to further pursue Green politics in Japan, leading to their offering to host the historic Asia Pacific Green Network meeting in February 2005 in Kyoto. Held just days before the effective start date of the Kyoto Protocol Treaty on Climate Change, that meeting was attended by more than 100 Greens from 23 Asian and Pacific nations, along with 300 more from Japan and Green observers from Europe and the Americas.

In 2002, a second group, Environmental Party Greens Japan, was founded with the intent of preparing to start a Green Party of Japan. Its founder, Mr. Atsuo Nakamura — a famous actor and writer was already at that time a member of the House of Councilors (the Upper House in the Diet, the national legislature of Japan.) How ever, Nakamura had not been elected as a Green, but as a member of the Pioneer Party.

Before he faced re-election in 2004, Nakamura formed the Environmental Party Greens out of the Pioneer Party and drafted nine others to run on his party list. Together they received about 900,000 votes (1.62%) — short to the 2% needed to win seats and be certified as an official political party for the next national election. As a result, Nakamura lost his seat. Despite this, the network that grew around the campaign resulted in the founding of the Greens Japan in 2005. Today Green Japan has about 600 members, including 66 local councilors. Some members belong to both the Rainbow and Greens Japan and the Greens Japan.

Success on the local level

In the April 2007 municipal and prefecture elections, candidates from the Rain bow and Greens and the Greens Japan together won 122 seats in local assemblies out of the 159 races they contested (76.7%). Their campaign included environment, welfare, peace, and democratization of assemblies and abolishment of unnecessary privileges of politicians. Among those elected were six aged 35 and under, including Kazumi Inamura, the co-spokesperson of the Greens Japan.

The greatest success came in larger cities where higher percentages of younger and progressive voters exist, and in districts with many seats. By contrast, Greens were not successful in the cities of Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Niigata, where electoral districts have been divided into very small, winner-take-all wards with a limited number of seats in each, making it difficult for minor political groups to win.

Like in many places, big money and big endorsements also help decide who will win, and most Green candidates had neither. In addition, many towns and cities merged and reduced the number of seats available, which also adversely affected Green candidates.

Ironically, many candidates who were determined to run openly as Greens instead of as independents were not elected This suggests that Green politics may not be known well enough to attract voters in Japan, and that more organizing around issues and actions needs to occur between elections.

First Green elected on the national level
While Greens are able to run on a local level, the barriers to participation in elections to the Diet are much higher. For example, on a positive note, there is proportional representation for 96 seats out of 242 in the House of Councilors, with half elected every three years. Yet to even contest these seats, a party is required to at least run 10 candidates and put down a deposit of 60 million Yen (US $52,000). Then the party would need more money for the election campaign itself. This is something the Japanese Greens are not yet prepared to undertake. Therefore they decided to run as an independent candidate, internationally known Mr. Ryuhei Kawada, 31-year-old HIV-positive human rights activist, who a few months before had attended the Global Young Greens meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kawada ran in a five-seat, winner-take-all district in Tokyo and conducted a spirited campaign in the streets of Tokyo, giving inspirational speeches about his personal experiences as a victim of HIV-infected blood product, his fight against the government and the company that infected him. Often moving audiences to tears, his campaign garnered increasing media attention that was unusual for an independent candidate, and attracted many young volunteers normally indifferent to politics.

On Election Day, Ryuhei won 683,629 votes, finishing fifth place out of five seats, and defeating the incumbent ruling Liberal Democratic Party candidate. The Greens Japan and the Rainbow and Greens Japan functioned as the main promoters for his victory. At the same time, many new volunteers came to Ryuhei’s campaign, leading to the hope they will be inspired to stay involved with Green politics.

Ryuhei’s first action as a member of the Diet was the visit to the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant, which was damaged and temporarily shut down after a July 16th earthquake registering 6.8 on the Richter scale. Accompanying him were NGO members who will be come his chief advisors for his anti-nuclear-power-plant policies.

Ryuhei next staged a workshop on the pa tients’ rights for the members of the Diet. As he seeks to introduce and pass future legislation to protect peo ple’s health and rights, his prior ex perience confronting the Health and Wel fare Ministry will be extremely valuable.

Then on September 27, Ryuhei visited the Burmese Embassy in Tokyo to protest the Burmese military regime’s brutal suppression of its country’s democratization movement. He added that Japan is also responsible for the situation, since the Japanese government has long de facto endorsed the military regime, by being one of its biggest suppliers of official development aid. “The Japanese government tends to put more importance on financial benefits than on human rights issues,” he said “and it has not played a very active role in solving this kind of problem in the international community.” Ryuhei pledged himself to make the government change its foreign policy. Ultimately, there are 242 members in the Upper House, and as one of 242, it will not be easy for Ryuhei to realize his ideals. However, he is seen by many as a small but powerful Green seed in the Diet, and has become a symbol of the Green hope for the Green movement across Japan.

The move towards a national Green Party of Japan
Following the election, Rainbow and Greens and Greens Japan each had successful general meetings in August, and decided to merge to advance towards founding an official Green Party of Japan in about a year.

Perhaps the biggest challenge a new Green Party of Japan will face is that Japanese people are deeply disillusioned with politics and political parties. Corruption scandals occur one after another, and people tend to think politicians form new parties not for political philosophy, but for ambition. Through policies and actions Japanese Greens must prove they are different.

At the same time, the failure of Japan’s establishment parties creates such an opportunity. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a crushing defeat in the July Upper House election, and now opposition parties hold a majority of the Upper House, as voters were angry at the government’s faulty management of the pension system and the repeated deception scandals about political funds of its cabinet members.

Voters also realized the pain caused by the so-called “structural reform” done by former LDP Prime Minister Koizumi and his fellows. The deregulation of employment laws has created job instability and increased the number of working poor, while larger companies are enjoying record profits and their longest prosperity on record. At the same time, many rural communities are suffering from a financial crisis, as the national government has decreased subsidies, which cover basic expenditures of local government. Voter anger and frustration about these actions seemed to lead the historic LDP defeat.

As for traditionally Green issues such as the environment, unusual weather such as heat waves, drought, large typhoons, and torrential rains have increasingly struck Japan, and are leading people to realize the seriousness of climate change. They know something has to be done.

Green politics is needed more than ever in Japan. The question before the soon-to-be-formed Green Party of Japan will be “can they overcome people’s distrust and disappointment in politics and convince them that Green policies are realistic ways to solve the nation’s problems.”

satoko-cropped.jpgSatoko Watanabe is a four-time-elected Green Council member on the Prefecture level. Internationally she has been active in Asia-Pacific Green organizing, including co-hosting the February 2005 Asia-Pacific Green Network Meeting in Kyoto. Globally she is a member of the Global Green Coordination, was a plenary speaker at the Global Greens 2001 meeting and is part of the organizing committee for the next Global Greens meeting in May 2008 in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Green Party of Canada Shadow Cabinet

The Shadow Cabinet of the Green Party of Canada is an alternative Green cabinet to that of the Canadian Federal government.

Its role is to shadow and provide critical opposition to the government’s positions on key policy matters. It features spokespeople on 27 different issue categories:

Aboriginal Affairs; Agriculture; Arts, Culture and Heritage; Climate Change; Democratic Reform; Energy; Environment; Employment and Social Issues; Finance and Ecological Fiscal Reform; Fitness and Sport; Health Promotion; Health Care; Human Rights; Industry; Infrastructure and Community Devel opment; International concerns; Justice; Labor; National Revenue; Natural Resources; Poverty Elimination; Public Service Reform; Public Works and Government Services; Seniors; Status of Women; Transport; Treasury Board

For more info: www.greenparty.ca/en/contact/shadow_cabinet

SPP Security Pact Proceeds In Secrecy
Canadian Greens Take Notice

By Janet M Eaton, PhD, International Trade Critic, Green Party of Canada
with contributions by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California

“Rather than increasing security through sustainability, the SPP compromises ecological limits and bypasses democratic accountability.”

If you ask the average person if they’ve ever heard of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America, they are likely to look at you blankly and say “No.” Sometimes identified as “NAFTA Plus,” leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico announced the SPP in March 2005. Unlike NAFTA, however, it is not a treaty or agreement, nor is it legislation which would demand review by parliament and congress. Rather the SPP is an initiative only between the executive powers in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., and is carried out with oversight in relative secrecy from an advisory board of CEOs from 30 of the most powerful companies in North America.

Little wonder the SPP has evoked outcries from activists across the continent, decrying the lack of transparency and accountability of a process where decisions are made behind closed doors.

Sometimes referred to as “NAFTA on steroids,” the SPP is the latest and most aggressive move in a process of North American integration formally begun with the signing of the Canadian U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) in 1988 and enlarged upon in the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. NAFTA brought the lowest level of economic integration on a scale which moves from (a) free trade area through (b) customs’ union, to (c) common market to (d) economic community to (e) full fledged political union. NAFTA was viewed as a platform for further integration as noted in its objectives and since that time corporate and politically elite lobbyists have never rested as they waited for the right moment to further their cause.

Greens have long argued that, absent strong environmental and labor principles, NAFTA has led to a loss of good jobs, decreased wages and poverty, as well as, environmental and health degradation in all three countries. With the further continental economic integration contemplated under the SPP, these trends also would accelerate, along with the loss of sovereignty over natural resources in all three countries. Rather than increasing security through sustainability, it compromises ecological limits and bypasses democratic accountability.

The door really opened for the SPP after the attack on 9-11. Many politicians called for deeper integration. The US administration shifted to a “security trumps all” framework where trade policy was viewed through a security lens; and the flow of goods, people and upkeep of infrastructure became pressing concerns for harmonized border control, which along with military integration led to what some see as “Fortress North America.”

On the Canadian side, there was a mad scramble to ensure that the border would remain open in case of another incident or disaster and in view of the border security pressures being brought forward by the Bush administration.

By 2003 the big business community in Canada under the guidance of Thomas D’Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) drafted the precursor to the SPP, the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (NASPI). It proposed a strategy with five major elements: 1) reinventing borders 2) maximizing regulatory efficiencies 3) negotiating a comprehensive resource security pact 4) reinvigorating the North American defense alliance and 5) creating a new institutional framework.

Meanwhile during the period from 2001 until 2005 when the SPP was announced – the dominant American voice promoting deeper integration was Professor Robert Pastor, member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He took his ideas on the road speaking so relentlessly on the subject that in the U.S., he instigated a powerful movement amongst the conservative right who cite his writings and lectures as evidence of a move toward a North American Union.

One of the facets of SPP captivating the imagination and concern of American citizens has been the notion of super corridors — large privatized super highways proposed to have six car lanes, four trucking lanes, railway line and utility corridors with water pipelines, all in the cause of transporting goods from China and Asia across the North American continent. The super corridors are an essential part of global trade routes, which is corporate driven, unsustainable, fossil fuel dependent, and utilize giant ports in Mexico, California, and the Atlantic coast.

In spite of attempts by Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper to deny plans for these super corridors, there is evidence they have been talked about in the reports of the NAFTA transportation working group going back many years and more recently within the context of the SPP and on the websites of super corridor coalitions such as North America’s Super Corridor Coalition and the CANAMEX Corridor Project.

Perhaps the best example of a super corridor is the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC). Estimated to cost between $145 and $183 billion, it will require the acquisition of approximately 584,000 acres. This has led critics from across political lines to raise concerns about: widespread eminent domain, the loss of business in hundreds of communities, loss of habitat and ecosystem fragmentation, massive water contamination, increased greenhouse gas emissions from increased trucking, and labor issues with Mexican non-unionized labor replacing American trucking companies and drivers. There will also be substantial corporate subsidies on the backs of citizens who will cover the cost in toll fees.

Relentless opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor has stalled the TTC for now and led to more than seventeen states passing resolutions demanding that congress reject the SPP and funding for super corridors. Rep. Virgil Good (R-VA) has introduced U.S. House Concurrent Resolution 40, expressing congressional opposition to construction of a NAFTA Super High way System or entry into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.

Sixteen cross-border working groups, ten on Prosperity and six on Security, made up of corporate leaders and senior government officials were established, reporting to Senior Ministers of each country. Leaders announced a strengthening of competitiveness in North America by appointing a North American Competi tiveness Council (NACC) furthering the corporate agenda, which was so obviously driving the SPP initiative from the beginning.

These leaders were also given a mandate to set up working groups to address; Energy Integration; Supply Chain Management /Trade Facilitation/Customs Reform; Regulatory/Standards issues —Harmon ization and Sharing of Best Practices; Counterfeiting and Piracy; and Private Sector Involvement in Border Security and Infrastructure Projects. NACC prepared a lengthy report for the Leaders meeting in Montebello Building a Secure and Com petitive North America noting that while overall progress to date had been en couraging, they were concerned that on a handful of im portant issues progress has stalled and the spirit of the SPP is being undermined.

In Canada, the specter of bulk water export that would undermine Canadian water sovereignty and sustainability is a major concern, which Harper denied any part in. However, activists have been vigilant since the SPP announcement and began watching for signs. During the past year such signs have become visible. These include: calls from industry and business water strategists to sell Canadian water, drawn plans for water pipelines along side the super corridors, and most recently a leaked “North American Future 2025 Project” document from the Center for Strategic and Inter national Studies for the SPP. It revealed that a 2007 think tank planned to discuss “water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water” with the aim of achieving “joint optimum utilization of the available water.”

In their report released for the Monte bello summit the NACC reported that they were working on advancing regulatory frameworks for harmonizing regulations across North America. As Greens in all three countries have observed from the experience of NAFTA, such efforts have already led to downward harmonization of environmental, health, labor, and food safety standards and regulations. The economic liberalization models behind them had meant less money in the public sector and hence more pressure to de-fund social and environmental programs as well.

So what does the future of the SPP hold? The post summit analysis suggests the secretive, closed-door approach of the SPP has been so exposed it will have to become a more open process to survive.

Ralph Pentland, a water expert and chair of the Canadian Water Issues Council, said there were three possible scenarios: “the SPP will continue more or less on its current track, growing popular resistance will bring it to a halt, or the process will become more respectful of democratic principles.”

Pentland added, “If that second scenario comes about, we’ll soon experience a ‘magna carta’ moment, and popular resistance in both counties will bring the SPP to a halt, or at least slow it to a harmless crawl.” This parallels the vision of both U.S. and Canadian Greens.

A North American Alliance Tackles The SPP
Greens Join Forces In An Effort To Stop Partnership Between Governments

By Janet M. Eaton, PhD, International Trade Critic, Green Party of Canada

“For now at least the SPP is more out in the open and Greens across North America hope to make it even more so.”

Greens from Canada and the United States have joined together this past March in opposition to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP, like its predecessor NAFTA, would open wider the borders for trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The highly secretive SPP includes: stricter integrated security and a nearly ten lane wide super highway spanning the three countries. Greens are calling the SPP a catastrophe to North American ecology and civil liberties. (Article on SPP page 7)

Canadian Greens have been active against the SPP for some time. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) Shadow Cabinet has already put together an opposition platform against the SPP, NAFTA and international trade, should the minority government of conservative, Stephen Harper fall. Last March, Canadian Greens participated in an anti-SPP forum. There, GPC Party Leader Elizabeth May evoked a huge round of applause when she said the GPC viewed the SPP as an attack on Canada’s core identity and sovereignty and that it would work to scrap the SPP.

The GPC has a web campaign to expose the SPP, releasing several documents including Why We Need to Take a Closer Look at Continental Integration, Frequently Asked Questions, as well as, Threats to Our Water: NAFTA, SPP, Super-Corridors, Atlantica.

A partnership began after I was invited by the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) to speak at its July annual national meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania, on the SPP, with a particular focus on energy. The Reading meeting also led to GPUS collaboration in the GPC’s SPP Counter Summit, held August 20th in Ottawa, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met at SPP Leaders’ Summit in nearby Montebello, Quebec.

Julia Willebrand and Justine McCabe, International co-chairs of Green Party of the United States at the Stop the SPP Rally in Ottawa August, 2007.

In Canada, Greens mounted a major campaign effort to publicize the Counter Summit, preparing articles, website materials, a petition, posters, and press releases. GPC also worked with the GPUS Interna tional Committee Co-chairs Julia Willebrand and Justine McCabe to bring a U.S. Green perspective to the Counter Summit and issued a joint press release.

caption: Julia Willebrand and Justine McCabe, International co-chairs of Green Party of the United States at the Stop the SPP Rally in Ottawa August, 2007

At the Counter Summit, May gave what some have said was her best political speech ever, articulating the SPP’s lack of transparency, corporate agenda, militaristic approach to security and severe threat to North Americans posed by regulatory downward harmonization.

Other counter-SPP events included an effort to expose the plans for bulk water exports. It featured paddling down the Ottawa river towards Montebello with Council of Canadian’s Maude Barlow and the Ottawa branch of the Raging Grannies, an international network of older social justice activists, who dress up in outrageous outfits and sing protest songs. This action garnered much attention from the press as well the military, who sent helicopters to observe the event.

Meanwhile, in Montebello where the summit leaders were meeting, a major protest was marred when union leader David Cole identified three large men with bandanas over their faces and rocks in their hands as agent provocateurs from the Quebec police. Shortly afterwards, the GPC put out a press release with May demanding for more government accountability; pointing out the ‘agents provocateurs’ incident as another example of extreme secrecy surrounding the SPP.

Since the Counter Summit, U.S. and Can adian Greens have continued cooperation on anti-SPP efforts, including doing a hour-long interview together on Wisconsin Public Radio as well as sharing news and analysis of the super corridor.

North American Greens can also focus on the threats to civil liberties which have accelerated and expanded under the SPP and include: the USA Patriot Act, Bill C-36 in Canada, the Smart Border Accord, No Fly lists, and others. Especially in the U.S., it is important to keep watch on the executive orders subverting congressional authority and the Military Commis sions Act that has suspended habeas corpus and sanctioned torture.

For now at least the SPP is more out in the open and Greens across North America hope to make it even more so. Other parties in Canada have already shown interest and concern over the SPP and started to participate in informational events. Greens in both Canada and the U.S. have started new efforts against the bulk export of water encompassed within the SPP. Now with the likelihood of a Canadian election, the GPC is fast preparing to make the SPP into a defining election issue.

caption: Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada leader, (left) speaking at the Council of Canadians Public Forum in August on the danger of the newly formed SPP.