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Weekend elections set in four Okinawa cities

Date Posted: 2006-09-10

Voters concerned about financial issues in their communities go to the polls this weekend to select new Assemblies.

A total of 107 assemblymen will be elected in Okinawa City, Nago City, Ishigaki City and Ginowan City Sunday. Each of the municipalities has reduced the number of assemblymen to curb operating costs. There are 125 candidates registered to run in the election.

Money woes are at the heart of each community’s concerns. Eyes are on Nago City, where the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation issue is a hot topic with voters. There are 32 candidates running for the 27 assembly seats, and they represent a variety of opinions on whether to support the military move.

Okinawa City has already chosen a new mayor, Mitsuko Toumon. Assembly candidates want to promote increased tourism and shopping business, but there’s no money to create parking areas. Thirty-five candidates are seeking the 30 available seats.

Aggressive promotion of a shopping mall in the Goya District is at the heart of several candidates, while three others are backing expansion of the Koza International Shopping Mall. “Our shopping mall is the first one to promote,” says one candidate looking for support. Both malls need public support, and money, to grow. Parking, or lack of it, deters many potential shoppers from visiting the Okinawa City area.

In Ginowan City, the question is whether voters will rally around the city’s mayor, or set him apart from public opinion. Incumbent mayor Youichi Iha is a socialist, while most Assembly candidates and incumbents are Liberal Democracy Party members. Thirty-one individuals are vying for the 28 available seats.

Ishigaki City, in the prefecture’s far southern Yaeyama Islands group, is largely an arena of independents seeking office. While 22 seats are at stake, and 27 are competing, officials predict low voter turnout because organized political parties aren’t stirring the ‘get out the vote’ issue.

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