TOKYO - Japan's government came under fire on Tuesday over its handling of public hearings on nuclear energy policy, threatening to dent already sagging support for the ruling party ahead of an election many expect to be this year.
The latest furor follows Monday's massive rally in Tokyo against nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, an issue now so contentious that lawmakers and analysts say it could trump taxes as the focus of lower house elections, which must be held by September 2013 but could come sooner.
"This gives the impression that they haven't learned anything," said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, after news that power companies' employees were among the few chosen to speak at hearings on changes to energy policy after Fukushima, the world's worst atomic disaster in 25 years.
It was an echo of a scandal just one year ago, when Kyushu Electric Power sought to sway public opinion at a hearing on restarting reactors in southern Japan.
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