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Futenma an issue for House candidates

Date Posted: 2007-02-23

Two candidates for the House of Councilors are keying on the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station closing, but with different views on what to do.

The two are vying for the seat held by Keiko Itokazu, who resigned from the House last Fall to run unsuccessfully against Hirokazu Nakaima in the Okinawa Gubernatorial Election. The special election will be held April 22nd.

Aiko Shimajiri, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, is facing Yoshimasa Karimata of the Socialist Parties. Both have formally registered as candidates and published their election manifestos.

Karimata is calling for an end to Futenma, saying “Futenma Air Station should not be transferred to Henoko. It must go away from Okinawa. We don’t need bases.” His opponent agrees that “Futenma should be removed because it is dangerous for area residents” but insists “Futenma Air Station should transfer to Nago City.” Her plan matches that of Governor Nakaima.

The 41-year-old Shimajiri is running as an independent, but says she “did take part in supporting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party.” She is basing a large part of her campaign on improving circumstances for women and children.

She promises that “I will support education, medical and welfare problems being ended for mothers and children.” Her 56-year-old challenger is taking aim at inequities between the rich and the everyday people. “Differences in wages are a problem,” he says. “It should be corrected, and can’t be done like now. The rich people are becoming richer and the poor people become porer.” Karimata says “that’s not right.”

Karimata is teaming with the Communist Party, although he says it is only a working agreement. “I am not going to join the Communist Party,” he points out, “because I can’t win an election if I say I’m a member of the Communist Party.”

The principal House of Councilors election is set for July. Political observers are watching the outcome of this special election to see how Okinawa voters perceive the political climate.

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