Incumbent mayor wins second term in Ginowan
In a closely watched election, incumbent 51-year-old Atsushi Sakima won a second term in the office against his sole challenger 63-year-old former senior prefecture official Keiichiro Shimura on Sunday.
The ballots were counted on the same day, and Sakima was re-elected with 27,668 votes against his opponent’s 21,811 votes. Shimura who had the support Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga lost by 5,857. The turnout in the election was 68.72 %, and increase of 4.82 points compared to the previous election.
Officials of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration paid close attention to the election, because it was largely seen revolving around the MCAS Futenma relocation issue, and Sakima’s win is expected to give the Abe administration a strong push forward with the relocation project.
Regarding the base relocation and construction in Henoko, Nago City, Sakima did not clearly address the matter in his election campaign, but said only that he wants the base out of his city as soon as possible. Instead he concentrated more on stressing his four-year-performance in the office and economic policy.
In his campaign Shimura also promised to push the air station out of the city, but insisted that it must be moved out of the prefecture altogether. He made the relocation issue the center of his campaign, and earned the backing of the governor and ruling parties in the prefectural assembly.
Sakima’s campaign obviously hit closer to home with Ginowan residents, who thus gave their blessings to his policies. To boost Sakima’s chances, the Abe government had made promises of bigger budgets for the prefecture and the city, backing for a plan to attract a Disney resort to Futenma land once the base is moved, and money for special projects within the city.
Japanese government officials welcomed the reelection of Sakima on Monday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated in Tokyo that, “Local citizens seem to have taken into account various factors to make this decision. This shows the phrase, ‘All Okinawa,’ is a far cry from the local reality.” ‘All Okinawa’ refers to the catch phrase opponents of the relocation plan use to characterize their movement that is made up of opposition parties, local civic groups, companies and labor unions who oppose the relocation and construction at Henoko.
The Ginowan election result is the first loss for Governor Onaga and ‘All Okinawa’ grouping since the prefectural gubernatorial race in 2014. The loss is expected to affect the Okinawa prefectural assembly members’ election race in June and the Upper House election in July.
Prime Minister Abe has regarded the mayoral race as a prelude to the House of Councillors election, and reportedly told an LDP executive after Sakima’s victory was imminent that, “This victory means a lot.”
After the election loss, Governor Onaga, told reporters that “There is no change” to his campaign to block the current Futenma relocation plan. “I will maintain the stance I have taken so far and will deal with the issue as a key policy challenge for the prefecture,” Onaga stated.