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Anti-Futenma candidates win big in Nago City election

Date Posted: 2010-09-16

Supporters of Nago City’s anti-base mayor Susumu Inamine swept to victory in Sunday’s Nago City Assembly election, sending ripples of doubt through many government channels as to how much more opposition to the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Base to northern Okinawa will now be generated.

With 27 assembly seats up for grabs, 16 of the 18 winners were backing Inamine’s position opposing the airbase relocation. Only 11 of 17 candidates who backed former Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who supported the base relocation from Ginowan City to the Henoko District of Nago, won a seat in the election. Voter turnout was a record-low 72%.

Inamine, who was elected in January on his anti-Henoko stance, was buoyed by the assembly victories, and told reporters that voters’ decisions now give him power to tell the central government in Tokyo that the base relocation plan is unacceptable. Inamine’s supporters were elated, particularly since the opposition had Seiji Maehara, the minister in charge of Okinawa affairs, lobbying for the base relocation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku reacted to the election outcome calmly telling reporters the government will not change its plans to relocate Futenma to the Henoko area and Camp Schwab, as planned. “I want to accept the result as one indication of the will of Nago’s citizens, but as to specifics regarding the relocation plan and reducing the burden of the bases,” he says, “the central government will continue to listen to local residents and seek their understanding for the agreement.”

Okinawa’s governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, is now faced with additional challenges as he prepares his re-election campaign battle for November’s gubernatorial election. Nominally pro-bases in the past, albeit with some reservations, Nakaima faces a challenge from Ginowan City’s fiery anti-base mayor, Yoichi Iha. Iha is a friend of Inamine, and is expected to garner support from Nago City in his election bid for governor.

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