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Three vie for Okinawa City mayor's post

By: Kari Valtaoja

Date Posted: 1998-04-25

Okinawa City mayoral election campaign kicked off Sunday with the usual election campaign vans appearing on the city's streets with loudspeakers blaring the candidate's name and greeting slogans.

Three candidates are taking part in the election. Masakazu Nakasone, 61, a former Okinawa City Office director, has the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, and various religious and peace groups. Incumbent Shusei Arakawa, 61, is seeking a third term in the office with the backing from reformist groups and communists. The third candidate is Yasuo Aguni, 52, who is the current Okinawa City Office Vice Secretary, is running as an independent.

Of the three, pundits generally agree that the race will be between the incumbent and Nakasone. Few people give Aguni any chances.

The election is watched carefully, because it will have a big impact on the coming House of Councillors (the Upper House of the Japanese parliament) election in July, and most importantly, on the Okinawa gubernatorial election which will be held in November.

Nakasone emphasizes the need for the city politics to change. He blames the incumbent for costly planning mistakes. He says that the current mayor uses tax payers' money to finance ambitious construction projects which end up in failure and leaves the citizens with the tab.

Incumbent Arakawa would like to see the American military bases disappear, and urges citizens to rely on their own power instead. "Without the removal of the U.S. bases from Okinawa, nothing is going to be developed here. All our energy is wasted in fighting the base issue against the Japanese government," he stated recently. He also is a staunch supporter of Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota in his crusade against the bases.

Aguni wants to concentrate on building a new image for Okinawa City. "Okinawa City has four magnificent resources to build our future. We have the ocean and nature, we have thriving entertainment culture, and we have the international atmosphere no one else has in this country. These are the resources we have to build on, and I will show the way," Aguni states. The election will be held on April 26.

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