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Okinawa, Gushikawa City mayoral races are on

Date Posted: 2002-04-17

The race for Okinawa City mayorís post is on and the voters will pick up their candidate Sunday. In the election, the incumbent Masakazu Nakasone, vying for his second term in the office, will face Teruko Kuwae, a leftist party-backed former Okinawa City Welfare Section Chief.

The importance of the election of the mayor of the second largest city in Okinawa was underscored at the start of the official campaign for Nakasone at a rally at Sonda, Okinawa City, where Okinawa Prefecture Governor Keiichi Inamine and Okinawan House of Representatives Member Seiji Nakamura, both stumped for Nakasone. Nakasone is backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and its ally Komeito that represents nationís Buddhist organizations. The conservative camp supperting Nakasone is perceived to be on defensive after a stunning loss their candidate suffered in the mayoral election of Kin Town two weeks ago.

Not to be outdone, challenger Teruko Kuwae had the Okinawan House of Representatives Member Mitsuko Tomon and former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota at her side at her opening rally.

The most conspicuous matter in the election is the controversial Awase tideland landfill project that has fueled passions in Okinawa City for some time. While incumbent Nakasone is pushing for the project to go ahead, Kuwae wants to halt the project for a couple of years and submit it to a popular vote.

In their bid to promote the development of the city, Nakasone advocates using the grants from the national government to create free parking spaces within the cityís shopping districts to revitalize the city, while Teruya want to make Okinawa City a base for NPOs and widen the base for making industrial goods within the city.

On issues concerning the U.S. military bases, both differ sharply. While Nakasone advocates planning for the eventual return of the base land, Kuwae wants to egt rid of the bases, period.

While the election campaign for the Okinawa City mayorís post heats up, another contest is waged simultaneously in Gushikawa City where incumbent Tsuneo Chinen faces Tokuo Maemiya, also on Apr. 21. In that election, Chinen is backed by conservative parties while Marmiya is the candidate for the reformist coalition.

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