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Sunday election results stun pro-U.S. base supporters

Date Posted: 2004-07-16

A first time political candidate was swept into office Sunday on his campaign against U.S. bases in Okinawa.

Socialist Party candidate Keiko Itokazu, 56, was an easy victor over the much favored Masatoshi Onaga, the Democratic Labor Party’s candidate. Itokazu won by more than 95,000 votes in the House of Councilors election. She campaigned on a pledge to “turn U.S. bases into flower beds.”

The defeat was a serious blow to the power brokers coalition that supported keeping bases on Okinawa, and moving Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko on the northern part of the island. Itokazu said she was defending the constitution.

She lobbied against pension reform programs now being undertaken, and against involvement of Japan Ground Self Defense Forces in Iraq. She was also critical of the Koizumi administration on a variety of issues.

Onaga was unable to generate the needed support for his pledge to reduce unemployment by half, and to help develop the economy. The only places he outshined Itakazu was in the outer islands.

The election results are a precursor to some rough months ahead for Governor Keiichi Inamine, who has supported the Futenma move to the north. Early this week he announced he’s standing by his support for the relocation plan, saying “I have no choice but to select the pragmatic approach.”

The Central Government in Tokyo, likewise stood its ground in the wake of Itakazu’s surprise victory.

“There won’t be any particular change in our policy toward Okinawa” was the way ranking officials in the Cabinet Office put it. A senior Japan Defense Agency official concurs, saying “since we’ve obtained agreement on the relocation from the Okinawa government and the Nago City mayor, we’ll just advance the environmental assessment and site survey step by step.”

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