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Candidates for Upper House election hammer PM Kan

Date Posted: 2010-06-24

Three Okinawans running for the House of Councilors in the upcoming July 11th election are united in one thing: they’re attacking Prime Minister Naoto Kan for his stand on keeping Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa.

Today marks the official public announcement of the upcoming election, but Aiko Shimajiri, Tadayuki Iju and Hiroharu Yamashiro have all taken the same position opposing having Futenma move from Ginowan City to northern Okinawa. The three participated in a public roundtable discussion in Naha, Monday, to voice their opinions on not only Futenma, but a proposed plan for increasing Japan’s consumption tax.

Shimajiri, a 45-year-old lawmaker backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, says “I don’t think it’s a good idea to raise the tax, because the economic situation is still bad after the Lehman shock, and if we discuss a tax increase the argument makes things worse so we better wait and take time. Iju, 58, agrees, noting “to increase the consumption tax would cause trouble in peoples’ lives, and I’m very much against it.” Iju is backed by the Communist Party. The 57-year-old Yamashiro, supported by the Socialist and People’s Socialist Party, says “Okinawa has a very high number of jobless people and peoples’ lives are not improving. If the consumption tax goes up, life becomes very difficult, and that’s no good at all.”

Iju is a former Okinawan Medical Consumer Cooperative chairman, while Yamashiro is the Okinawa Peace Campaign Center administrative director. They all criticized Prime Minister Naoto Kan for his continued support of the Futenma relocation plan approved by his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, has opted not to put a candidate on the ballot in Okinawa for the July 11th election, concerned about criticism the party’s taking over its support for relocating Futenma within Okinawa. DPJ officials say it is likely the party’s stance—and that of the Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration—would lead to certain loss. Local DPJ leader Shokichi Kina, a House of Councilors member who also heads the local DPJ chapter, had said the local chapter was prepared to put forth a candidate, but discussions with the national party heads led to a change in position.

The DPJ is enjoying high marks from Japan as a whole, but is being battered by Okinawans opposed to plans to keep the controversial U.S. Marine base on the island. Nationally, the DPJ has taken aim at capturing at least 60 seats in the July 11th upper house election, enough to regain a majority. “We would like to stick to the target of security a majority on our own by being given 60 seats,” says Azuma Koshiishi. He says he’s willing to ask the Social Democratic Party, one of two coalition partners who abandoned the DPJ weeks ago during rifts with then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, to cooperate with his party.

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