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Local and national issues fueling campaign rhetoric

Date Posted: 2005-08-20

Local candidates for the Japanese Lower House of Representatives election are aggressively preparing for the September 11th ballot.

The special election comes because Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the elective body earlier this month after the Diet’s upper house rejected his postal reform and privatization program. In Okinawa, newspapers are filled with campaign news, and debates are heavy among the 3rd election district candidates. The district covers Okinawa City, Uruma City, Kadena Town, Kitanakagusuku, Chatan and Nishihara Town.

Four candidates are vying for office. Chiken Kakazu, 64, spearheads the Liberal Democratic Party challenge, facing Mitsuko Tomon, 62, of the Socialist Party of Japan, newcomer Denny Tamaki, 45, of the People’s Liberal Party, and Ken Inohara, 29, of the Communist Party.

A debate on Sunday among the four focused on the postal service privatization plan, as well as several hot button local issues. There was plenty of talk about the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation, the controversial tide lands reclamation project in Awase, and the demands for closing Camp Hansen’s new Range 4.

Chiken Kakazu spoke out for the postal reform, noting “I agree with our Prime Minister. There are two many postmen and chiefs of post offices that make too much salary. If we don’t make the postal service solvent, Japan is going to go bankrupt.”

Socialist Party candidate Mitsuko Tomon disagrees, accusing the Prime Minister of “breaking the law by himself.” And People’s Liberal Party candidate Denny Tamaki says he’d “never agree to postal services going private. He also accused the Prime Minister of “trying to do everything in a very autocratic way.”

The Communist Party candidate, Ken Inohara, said he was “very adamantly against the LDP. They are doing everything wrong! They have been cutting the important budgets, like social insurance and health care, pensions, medical budgets and more.” He said Prime Minister Koizumi should first take care of the senior citizens’ insurance, then worry about the postal system.

The Socialist Party’s Chiken straddled the fence on the Futenma issue, saying the air station should move from Okinawa, but “if it stays, I think there can be no better place than Camp Schwab. No place else.” Tamaki wants “Futenma Air Station to move to mainland Japan, not anywhere within the prefecture.” He says he will “never agree about having it outside of Camp Schwab,” saying he’s not even in favor of the proposed shift to Kadena Air Base.

Election pundits say all will become clearer by the early hours of September 12th, a few hours after the polls close.

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