Sachio Kuwae elected new Okinawa City Mayor

Sachio Kuwae won the Okinawa City mayoral election, Sunday. In the election, in which 58-year-old Kuwae faced 64-year-old former Okinawa City Deputy Mayor Yoshinori Shimabukuro, Kuwae garnered 29,968 votes against Shimabukuro’s 27,779.

57.73 percent of eligible voters cast the ballot, an increase of 6.7 points from the previous mayoral election four years ago.

Although both candidates ran as independents, Kuwae who is a former Liberal Democratic Party prefectural assemblyman, was backed and endorsed by practically all major political parties including the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, while Shimabukuro was backed only by the Communist Party and the Socialists.

In his campaign, Kuwae concentrated on economic issues and revitalization of the city, while Shimabukuro tried to woo voters with traditional socialist ideas of opposing the construction of the new base to Henoko, and criticized the governor’s decision to approve the landfill to build the base.

Kuwae, who has previously expressed his support for the base relocation to Henoko on the basis that it’s foremost a safety issue, largely refused to engage in a debate about the base, saying that it has nothing to do with Okinawa City where the most depressing issue is its high unemployment and shrinking business base.

The LDP placed great importance on winning the race, and threw full support for Kuwae. LDP Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and Shinjiro Koizumi, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office and the son of the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, visited Okinawa City to campaign for Kuwae.

The LDP has in its sights the looking gubernatorial election in November this year, which the party sees crucial regarding the success of the plans to relocate the MCAS Futenma to Henoko.