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Governor’s status appears slipping as election approaches

Date Posted: 2010-11-18

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s flip-flop on supporting, then not supporting, the government proposals on relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to northern Okinawa may be causing him a loss of public support.

“I want the government to reconsider the Japan~U.S. agreement, relocating it outside Okinawa Prefecture,” Nakaima is insisting now. “I want the entire nation to consider security issues.” The governor, who’s now in the political fray leading to a November 28th election pitting him against former Ginowan City mayor Yoichi Iha, says he’s already “met with the foreign minister, the defense minister and other officials, and begun dialogue to demand this.”

Erratic behavior on the part of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which stirred the wrath of many Okinawans, forced Nakaima to change from being a reluctant supporter of moving the airbase to the Henoko district of Nago City. The frustrated electorate is sending enough anti-Nakaima signals that the Vice President of Nakaima’s Liberal Democratic Party has rushed to Okinawa in support, declaring “this is a tough fight, but the party headquarters will do everything it can.”

Nakaima, a political novice who won the gubernatorial election on his first political bid four years ago, has supporters worried. The chairman of the Okinawa Employers’ Associations, Eiji Chinen, which supports to governor, is worried. The Okinawa Contractors Association, a 386-company community that supported Nakaima in the past, has pulled away and is permitting members to vote as they like, noting “we can’t antagonize the government, as they control large projects such as building a new runway at Naha airport.”

Challenger Yoichi Iha continues to be outspoken against the base issue, spending about seven of ten minutes in a recent speech to repeat “no to relocation within the prefecture” nine times in a row. Iha, a former member of the Okinawa Chapter of the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union, has its support, as well as that of the Social Democratic Party, the Okinawa Social Mass Party and the Communist Party.

Nakaima’s dilemma is that he’s at odds with his party, the LDP, which endorses the Futenma move.

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