November Governor election shapes to be fight over Henoko

According to local press reports, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has decided to seek a third term in the office. Reportedly, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga is also considering a run in the election on Nov. 16, although he has not confirmed his intentions, yet.

That makes an interesting election, as both are members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and none of opposition parties is seen to have a viable candidate.

The key difference is that while incumbent Nakaima has approved the start of the landfill work to build a replacement facility for MCAS Futenma off Camp Schwab, Onaga is opposing the government plan.

The Okinawa Prefecture chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party has agreed to support Nakaima, and LDP members of the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly have also confirmed their backing for Nakaima’s candidacy.

Although Nakaima has said “I will take their decision seriously,” expressing his willingness to run for the third term, there has been rumors that he might not be able to complete his third term if elected due to health reasons.

There have also been rumors that the LDP bigwigs in Tokyo are not too enthusiastic about Nakaima’s intention to run. Some LDP executives in Tokyo seem to be reluctant to back Nakaima after party members in the Naha Municipal Assembly said they would support Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, a former secretary-general of the LDP Okinawa chapter, in the gubernatorial election in order to register their opposition to the relocation plan.

Nakaima will hold talks within this month with LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on his potential run, chapter officials said.

Kozaburo Nishime, a member of the House of Representatives and current head of the LDP Okinawa chapter, says he feels Nakaima’s motivation and determination for a third term are extremely high.

Complicating matters for the LDP bosses in Tokyo is the fact that the Okinawa chapter of New Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, appears reluctant to support Nakaima because it opposes the central government’s relocation plan.

Recent reports that a plan exists to build more infrastructure on Camp Schwab than the government has revealed to citizens is expected to stiffen local resistance even further. The Japanese Government denies being aware of such plans.

If anything, the election promises to become an interesting one, and will be fought exclusively on the issue of Futenma relocation. It’s also likely to be one, in which Shinzo Abe and other LDP bosses will do their outmost to ensure that the outcome will help the relocation, as the central government has painted itself into a corner telling the U.S. Government that the new base at Henoko will be built no matter what. And that fight seems to be guaranteed to continue long after the election.