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Itokazu gains ground as LDP struggles in upcoming election

Date Posted: 2007-07-21

Opposition candidate Keiko Itokazu is moving up in the polls as she challenges Junshiro Ishime for the House of Councilors seat up for grabs July 29th.
Itokazu, who is backed by the Democratic Party of Japan, is gaining momentum, according to a new poll conducted by the Okinawa Times and Asahi Shimbun newspapers Thursday. A clear majority of independents say they’ll vote for Itokazu, who held the House of Councilors seat before resigning to challenge Hirokazu Nakaima for Okinawa’s governorship.
Ishime, the Liberal Democratic Party’s man, has strengths in Ishigaki and Miyako island groups, while Itokazu polls strongly in Nago, Naha and Itoman cities. The two disagree on most issues, including the future of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and the Okinawa economy, but are finding themselves forced bedfellows in the controversy over changing textbook accounts of the Battle of Okinawa.
The Ministry of Education has ordered changes to textbooks, deleting references to Japanese Imperial Army soldiers ordering Okinawans to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Americans during the battle. “I will never tolerate any moves to try to rewrite the history of the mass suicides,” says Itokazu. Nishime, a staunch LDP member, is having to take the Okinawa side, and oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who supports his Minister of Education.
Okinawa’s unemployment rate is now 7.7%, almost double the national average, leading employer groups to insist candidates find ways to revitalize the economy. The two candidates have different ideas how to accomplish that. Likewise, Itokazu opposes continued presence of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, while Nishime favors a more moderate posture that keeps the bases, but moves them away from population centers.

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