House of Councilors winners divided on Futenma move
The two Okinawa winners in the House of Councillors election are at opposite ends of the spectrum on relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a sparsely populated area in northern Okinawa, but the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which swept the elections, is signaling plans will move forward for moving the controversial base to Henoko.
The former mayor of Urasoe City, Mitsuo Gima, won his House of Councillors seat by proportional-representation. The 69-year-old politician is in favor of moving Futenma to Henoko. Gima broke into politics in 1973, winning a seat on the Urasoe City Council, then moved on to a Prefectural Assembly victory in 1980 as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party. After 16 years in the Assembly seat, he won election in
2001 as Urasoe City Mayor.
The president of the Okinawa Social Mass Party, on the other hand, is a staunch opponent of Futenma remaining in Okinawa. Kieko Itokazu won her House of Councillors seat with 294,420 votes, her third time to win election. She defeated Masaaki Asato of the Liberal Democratic Party, who pulled in 261,392 votes. Other candidates losing to Itokazu were Merry Nijima with 10,505, and Tatsuro Kinjo with 9,462 votes. The voter turnout was only 53.4%, the third worst participation rate ever recorded.
Itokazu’s principal opponent, Masaaki Asato, was tepid on the Henoko-Futenma issue, despite the LDP position in favor of the move. Asato had said moving Futenma outside Okinawa was the better move, but spoke little about the issue during the campaign. Itokazu is already warning that the LDP may try changing laws to make the Futenma move happen more easily, and is encouraging Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima to resist giving in to the ruling party. Nakaima must approve the land reclamation element of the Futenma move. Okinawa sentiment is largely against the move, and Itokazu says she’ll support Nago’s mayor in his reelection bid to continue opposing the new air base, which is in a district of Nago City.