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Political parties narrowing choices for their gubernatorial candidates

Date Posted: 2006-08-11

The election for Okinawa Prefecture governor is just around the corner, but neither the government party nor the opposition have figured out who they want for candidates.

There’s still a lot of brainstorming going on in both camps, although reports indicate the ruling party has almost settled upon Hirota Nakaima as its candidate. Nakaima, 66, is currently Chairman of the Prefecture Chamber of Commerce.

The future of American military bases on the island is the key contention point between the two leading candidates for the opposition ticket. Both want changes, but are miles apart on the specifics.
Tokunobu Yamauchi is pitted against Mikio Shimoji for the opposition nod, and their potential candidacies are fueling so much disagreement, the opposition has called for a debate on Sunday.

Shimoji and Yamauchi are deadlocked on how to go about changing the status of U.S. forces, and are going to ask for input from the general public.

The 71-year-old Yamauchi has supporters in the Socialist, Communist and People’s Socialist parties. Shimoji is claiming support from the Liberty of Workers Union.

Shimoji is pushing his own agenda. He wants to “Make Futenma Air Station go together with Kadena Air Base, and close Nago City’s Camp Schwab. The 44-year-old Shimoji wants other bases now in Okinawa spread across not only this prefecture, but out to Iwakuni, Guam and the Philippines.

Tokunori is vehemently opposed to Shimoji’s plan, saying “No! Not to Kadena Air Base. All bases should go away from Okinawa, because that is what Okinawans want!”

Shimoji, who switched from the Liberal Democracy Party to the socialist side in 2004, then became an independent, says “for this election we must bring the different party problems together. The party isn’t important now, but policy is.” He says “I’m the Naha City area’s person, and everybody knows me.” Shomoji claims that in the prefecture’s largest city, “I can get elected”.

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