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Futenma, medical care hot button issues in Sundays elections

Date Posted: 2008-06-06

An estimated 75% of eligible voters are expected to show up at the polls Sunday to cast ballots in the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly election.

The election poses a challenge to Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has probably voters at odds with the administration over relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a northern Okinawa location, and revamping the much criticized social medicine system. A pre-election poll by a local newspaper showed nearly 80% of the respondents opposed to shifting Futenma to a U.S. military camp at Henoko, near Nago City.

“It has to move away from Okinawa, and not be transferred to the Henoko area” is the theme of base relocation opponents, who want Futenma to be closed. Only 13.7% of those surveyed agree with the governor that the new airfield should be moved to Henoko, but with a change in the location of the two V-shaped runways. A total of 59.3% of those answering the survey say the government should push for Futenma being moved outside the prefecture.

Nearly half those saying they’ll be voting Sunday insist the socialized medicine system, particularly as it applies to people over 75 years of age “has to be reorganized.” Opponents say they’ll “never agree to the new system” and are calling on the prime minister to relook the system “and make new rules”. While 46.7% say they feel that way, an equal number of voters say the social medicine system “has to be abolished; we don’t want the government taking money away from our bank books.”

All told, 74 candidates are seeking the 48 available Prefecture Assembly seats. Only 31 of the campaigning candidates currently hold Assembly seats, with challengers seeking to upset the LDP grip on power. The LDP is fielding 34 candidates, while the opposition parties are offering 33. Seven candidates are declaring themselves independent of the parties. Rising gasoline costs and opposition to the restored temporary road tax join Futenma and the socialized medicine issues as great concerns to voters and candidates.

Naha City promises to be the most closely contested of the 14 districts in the 10th Okinawa Prefecture Assembly election Sunday. Sixteen candidates are vying for the 11 seats. Okinawa City has six candidates for five seats, while Ginowan City has three seats available and five competing for them. Uruma City has five candidates seeking the four seats, while Urasoe City has nine candidates fighting for the four available seats.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s personal popularity level is at 55% of the voters, who say “he is a good worker.” Just over one-quarter of poll respondents said the governor is not doing a good job. In contrast, only 23.7% of those surveyed say they’ll vote the Liberal Democratic Party line, while 13.7% say they’ll support the Democratic Party of Japan. Some 5.3% say they’ll back the socialist parties, 4.3% the Komeito party, and 3% the Communist party.

More than one-third, 35.3% of those who say they’ll vote, say they’ve no allegiance to any party. IF the numbers play out in the election, it indicates a voter block shift, with independents increasing by 6% from the last assembly election.

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