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Okinawa’s governor tosses his hat into reelection ring

Date Posted: 2010-08-05

It was hardly surprising when Hirokazu Nakaima told a citizens group he wanted to continue working on issues in Okinawa Prefecture, but it was a foreshadowing of the official announcement to come in September: he’s running for reelection as the Prefecture’s governor.

Few people didn’t believe Nakaima would seek another term, knowing the 70-year-old governor wants to create a new Okinawa development plan to replace the existing plan that expires the end of 2012. Equally important, the governor is a pivotal figure in the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation project, as he’s the one who approves all land reclamation projects. The proposed new airfield at Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago City, would have its V-shape runways extending into the adjacent Oura Bay.

The gubernatorial election is set for November 28th, and one challenger is looming on the horizon. The three socialist parties union—People’s Socialist Party, Communist Party and the Great Socialist Party—want Yoichi Iha, Ginowan City’s fiery anti-American bases mayor, to confront Nakaima. Yonekichi Shinzato, the union’s chairman, says he’ll push Iha to be a candidate when the parties meet August 7th. The socialist parties are united in protests demanding U.S. Marines be withdrawn from Okinawa and existing basing agreements nullified.

Iha says “if a request comes from the selection committee, I will seriously consider taking part.” Early indications are that he has support from the Okinawa Municipal Workers Union, Prefecture Workers Union and Support Workers Union.

The election could prove complex, pitting Nakaima, the Liberal Democratic Party governor who has in the past supported the airfield move, albeit with minor modifications. Iha’s adamantly opposed, and the Democratic Party of Japan has not proposed even putting up a candidate, knowing how unpopular it is with Okinawans.

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