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First Okinawa mayoral elections week away

Date Posted: 2010-01-14

Voters in both Nago City and Yaese Town head for the voting booth in little more than a week, and other municipalities aren’t far behind.

In Nago City, January 24th could well prove to be a referendum on the northern Okinawa City’s views about hosting the new military airfield in its Henoko District at Camp Schwab. The 63-year-old incumbent mayor, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, supports having the base in his backyard, while his opponent, opposition party candidate Susumu Inamine, is opposed. Inamine, 64, is former chairman of the Nago City Board of Education, as well as a former mayor.

The importance of the Nago City voter turnout is not lost on government leaders, who think it could even have an impact on the fall Okinawa gubernatorial election. Nobody’s making predictions, but everyone’s beginning to think mayoral races will spur voter interest in prefecture issues, including the Futenma relocation.

Yaese Town also has its polls open on January 24th, with Nanjo City, Tonaki, Yomitan Village and Kin Town also having mayoral elections. Nanjo City’s is on January 31st. Okinawa City’s mayoral election is in late April, with four challengers already lined up to oppose the 67-year-old incumbent, Mitsuko Tomon. Toru Odo, 57, Ryoichiro Zukeyama, a 36-year-old Okinawa City Assembly member, and Morikatsu Kohama, a 56-year-old City Assembly member, have already publicly announced their intentions. A fourth challenger, another assembly member, is expected to face the media and make an announcement soon.

The election cycle intensifies in July with voters choosing members for the House of Councilors, the upper house of parliament, and for Okinawa’s governor. Incumbent governor Hirokazu Nakaima is expected to face a number of challengers, which presently total four. Reportedly in the race will be Ginowan City Mayor Yoichi Iha, Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, Urasoe City Mayor Mitsuo Gima, and Mikio Shimoji, a member of the House of Representatives.

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