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Prefecture governor’s race now appears wide open

Date Posted: 2006-04-28

The Liberal Democracy Party thought it had the upper hand in Okinawa politics, but was handed a resounding defeat in Okinawa City last Sunday.

With election of an opposition party candidate to mayor, and the LDP’s candidate trashed by more than 2,000 votes, the island’s leading political organization is now looking at the upcoming gubernatorial election with concern. LDP leaders are scrambling to reorganize the party’s internal system before campaigning begins for the November election.

There’s no shortage of candidates for governor, including current vice governor Noriaki Kakazu and Prefecture Chamber of Commerce Chairman Hirota Nakaima. Add to that Kousaburo Nishime, a current member of the House of Representatives, and the LDP stable appears full.

Other political pundits are still lobbying the present governor, Keiichi Inamine, to reconsider and run for reelection. The LDP is facing formidable competition from the opposition. Keiko Itokazu, a member of the House of Councilors, wants to take on the LDP, as does Ginowan City Mayor Yoichi Iha. They’ve not made formal declarations, but are continuing to have meetings to see who’s the best candidate to defeat the ruling LDP.

There are still more candidates clamoring for the post. Former Prefecture Assembly member Masaharu Kina is expressing interest, along with former Prefecture Treasurer Tokunobu Yamauchi.

The political intrigue could play out in several directions, depending on which candidates are selected by their parties. Itokazu has a strong anti-American, anti-military stance that’s even stronger than Ginowan Mayor Yoichi Iha’s. If one of them is picked to run, the LDP will find itself having to perhaps defend the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station issue.

Internal feuding is already under way, and political observers say the only thing that can happen now is for the bickering to intensify.

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