Onaga to become next Okinawa governor

Barely an hour after the polls closed, former Naha Mayor Takashi Onaga was all but certain to win the Okinawa gubernatorial election.

Onaga’s victory is sure to spell trouble to the government of Shinzo Abe in its plans to go ahead with the construction of the MCAS Futenma replacement facility of Camp Schwab in Henoko. Many consider today’s election as de facto referendum on the relocation, to which Okinawan residents have now said resounding “No!”

In the election 64-year-old Onaga defeated two-term incumbent, 75-year-old Hirokazu Nakaima, who approved the start of landfill work last December to build a replacement facility for the MCAS Futenma in Ginowan.

Pundits were quick to predict that the outcome would make it more difficult for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to go ahead with the base transfer plan. It’s also sure to embolden local residents who are opposed to the relocation agreed between Tokyo and Washington, and demand that the air station be removed outside of the prefecture altogether.