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Shimabukuro re-elected to upper house seat

By: Kari Valtaoja

Date Posted: 1998-07-10

Souko Shimabukuro, 71, was able to retain his upper house seat in the Japanese Diet or parliament, in a tightly fought election for Okinawa's only seat up for election in Sunday's ballot. Shimabukuro, who is the chairman of Okinawa's Social Masses Party and was backed by all leftist parties in the prefecture, managed to keep his seat by a margin of 5,153 votes over Kenjiro Nishida, 54, who was backed by the Liberal Democratic Party.

Nishida was in clear lead in the early counting of the ballots, exceeding Shimabukuro's count by as much as 17,000 votes at one point, but as the count continued Shimabukuro's tally took over Nishida's. At the end, Shimabukuro had cornered 243,482 votes over Nishida's 238,329.

Shimabukuro's win was seen as a boost for Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota's re-election campaign, scheduled for November. Shimabukuro is a staunch supporter of Ota's policies concerning the U.S. bases here and considers the relocation of any U.S. bases within the prefecture completely unacceptable. Nishida was advocating the relocation of MCAS Futenma to the offshore-based facility off Henoko as the best solution for Okinawa.

Although the upper house election results have no direct impact to the gubernatorial election, it certainly gave a boost of confidence to groups supporting Gov. Ota. On the other hand, it seems to have put more sticks into gears of groups who are trying to convince Diet Member Kosuke Uehara to take on Ota in the coming election.

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