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Opposition parties finally pick a gubernatorial candidate

Date Posted: 2006-09-22

Only two months before Okinawa’s gubernatorial election, the collective opposition parties have decided upon a candidate.

While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party made its choice for a successor to incumbent governor Keiichi Inamine weeks ago, the opposition struggled to make peace between three dissimilar candidates. Hirota Nakaima, 67, a former Chairman of the Prefecture Chamber of Commerce, will represent the LDP in the November 19th election.

As the smoke cleared Monday, Keiko Itokazu, a member of the House of Councilors representing the Democratic Party of Japan emerged as the opposition’s candidate. She had been struggling for supremacy with Mikio Shimoji, a current member of the House of Representatives, and Tokunobu Yamauchi, a former Prefecture deputy director of the treasury.

The three principal opposition parties have been arguing for months about who could best represent them in the race for governor, with none of the candidates willing to step aside. Yamauchi’s party said it couldn’t accept Itokazu. “Keiko can’t take care of military problems well, because she doesn’t know things very well. Tokunobu Yamauchi was the one who took care of military issues before, and he knows everyone.” Party members said they’d not endorse Keiko, but others said they didn’t want Yamauchi either, leading to his final decision to step aside.

Itokazu insists she doesn’t want to be the candidate for governor, but says she “couldn’t say no because the six other Socialist parties were pushing her and depending upon her. Yamauchi refuses to say whether he’ll back Itokazu in the end, saying “It will be difficult and I still need to get my mind straight.”

“I did refuse to be a candidate for governor,” Itokazu said this week, but admits now “I have to say that union is victory, while a split means losing. I want to win.” She told both Yamauchi and Shimoji that neither of them could bring the socialist parties together, so “I’m the only person who can unify the parties. Please support me.”

Mikio Shimoji, an independent who aggressively campaigned for the nomination, says “It’s alright if she wants to become a candidate for our parties’ group, but I’ll refuse her.” Shimoji also says he doesn’t know if he could endorse her candidacy.

DPJ Okinawa chairman Masaharu Kina says “I want every socialist to support her, and not split apart.” Another local DPJ leader, Kantoku Teruya, says “we must put together the election campaign quickly, so we can be competitive in our objective to regain the governor’s seat.”

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