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Governor's camp garners poor election showing

Date Posted: 2012-06-15

Okinawa’s governor is reeling in the aftermath of Sunday’s prefecture-wide elections that dealt him a losing hand in control of the Prefecture Assembly.

Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and two political parties that have long been his allies couldn’t muster public support for their policies, giving six opposing parties the momentum to capture 27 of 48 seats up for grabs. The small parties, including conservatives, the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, outscored the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and non-affiliated candidates, who picked up 21 seats. Nakaima’s coalition now lacks a majority in the Prefecture Assembly.

Voter turnout was a dismal, record low 52.49%, down significantly from the 57.82% in the last prefecture elections. Voters sent a clear signal to Nakaima they’re not pleased with his efforts to boost the Okinawa economy. The Democratic Party of Japan felt the wrath of voters, too, with two of its three candidates, including the prefectural DPJ chief, losing their seats. Nakaima had been instrumental in obtaining concessions from Tokyo, including a new 10-year economic plan funded by the national government, but that wasn’t enough.

Voters barely noted that Nakaima’s accomplishments included funding for a second runway at Naha International Airport, as well as support projects for agriculture and tourism industries, plus boosts to social welfare services. The governor’s argument was that the LDP needed everyone’s support to allow him to press further for budget concessions from Tokyo. “The election results are disappointing,” Nakaima said Monday. “I definitely thought we’d win a majority, but there was no link between voter behavior and approval of the economic development plan.”

About the only thing Nakaima and his opponents had in common during Sunday’s elections was a common dislike for Tokyo’s plans for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to remain on Okinawa. Nakaima’s opposed it for several years, as do all of the smaller parties. Tokyo’s now watching and waiting to see how Okinawans will react to both the Futenma relocation to Henoko in northern Okinawa, which the central government says it remains committed to, and the plan for deploying a squadron of 12 MD-22 Osprey aircraft to Okinawa later this summer.

Okinawa’s Prefecture Assembly, along with 39 of the prefecture’s 41 municipalities, are on record opposing the deployment. The safety record of the tilt-rotor aircraft is worrying many Okinawans, particularly in the wake of the crash in Morocco earlier this year of an Osprey on deployment. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has supported both the Futenma relocation and the Osprey deployment, and both seemingly gave momentum to political parties opposed to continued military aviation activity on Okinawa’s main island.

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