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Governor Inamine re-elected by landslide

Date Posted: 2002-11-24

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine won the second term in office, Sunday. In the election Inamine won the majority of votes in every city, town and village throughout the prefecture. IN the final tally, Inamine got 359,604 votes. His closest rival, former Vice Governor Masanori Yoshimoto representing socialist parties got less than half, 148,401 votes. Communist backed Shigenobu Arakaki had 46,230 votes and Mitsuo Matayoshi who considers himself to be a reincarnated Christ could count 4,330 voters who believed his message.

The result had been widely expected. The voting ended at 8 p.m. and as couting started one minute later it did not take long for the media to conclude that the incumbent had won. Based on its own survey of voters as they exited from the polls, OTV declared Inamine the winner only two minutes into the counting. Even the state-owned NHK TV station declared the winner at 8:06 p.m. when only 1.5 percent of the votes had been counted.

Both challengers blamed too short campaign time for their failure to get their message through to voters. Yoshimoto, who arrived at his campaign office at 8:40 p.m. was shocked at the margin of Inamine’s win. “We got our campaign started clearly too late,” Yoshimoto said. He and his staff were also taken aback at how soon local media declared Inamine the winner. “We feel that that was a joke. How can anyone say that we lost only few minutes into vote count,” one of Yoshimoto’s campaign managers said.

The communist candidate Shigenobu Arakaki also blamed short campaign time for his dismal showing. “Everywhere where we went people like my message, but we simply did not have enough time to cover the whole prefecture as we got started so late,” Arakaki stated in his campaign headquarters. But he remains optimistic about the future. “I believe we can win in the future, as the current government is pushing too much military base programs, and people will not like that,” Arakaki concluded.

Governor Inamine said that his big win clearly shows that Okinawan people support his policies. “I feel that people have trusted me with a big responsibility to continue and enhance policies that I started during my first term in the office. People know what we have achieved and they want to stay in the course,” the governor said.

He also immediately renewed his call for a 15-year time limit on U.S. forces' use of the planned replacement for MCAS Futenma. He said that construction on the new base will not begin until the time-limit issue is resolved.

However, a spokesman for the national government responding to the governor’s comment Monday only repeated its earlier position. "We will negotiate with the United States," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters at his office, avoiding direct comment on the issue.

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