Ruling LDP ‘stunned’ by Nago election outcome

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is shocked by the defeat of an Liberal Democratic Party-backed candidate in Sunday’s Nago City mayoral election.

In the waning days of the campaign between anti-bases incumbent Susumu Inamine and former Okinawa Prefectural Assemblyman Bunshin Suematsu, the LDP muscled its way to northern Okinawa to support Suematsu. Inamine defeated Suematsu by more than 4,000 votes despite the influx of LDP politicians to encourage potential voters to support their candidate.

The director-general of the LDP Election Strategy Committee, Takeo Kawamura says the LDP has to respect voters’ judgment and make further efforts to promote economic development in Okinawa and reduce its burden to host U.S. bases, but expressed disappointment because of the impact on Okinawa’s future

The LDP had sent Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and Shinjiro Koizumi, parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, to Nago to rally voters behind Suematsu. The LDP’s junior coalition partner,

New Komeito, came under fire for not supporting Suematsu.  The New Komeito let its members vote whichever way they felt appropriate.  New Komeito officials said it wasn’t possible to pressure its members, because many female members belong to the Buddhist lay group Soka Gakkai.  Natsuo Yamaguchi, the New Komeito head, conceded his party wasn’t operating effectively to support the LDP.

A senior LDP official says the New Komeito’s support would have made all the difference, lamenting “Awful. Cooperation by New Komeito might have allowed the LDP-backed candidate to win the election.” Still looming for the LDP is an expected battle in Okinawa when the Okinawa gubernatorial election comes up in the fall.  Opposition party leaders say they hope to block an LDP-supported candidate from replacing current governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who is not expected to run for reelection.