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Politicians already mulling next year’s gubernatorial elections

Date Posted: 2009-12-17

The gubernatorial election is nearly a year away, but politicians are already sequestering themselves to discuss options, and there appear to be many.

The rumors are already flying as to who may be jumping into next November’s election, and if the rumors are to be believed, there will be a house full of candidates. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is expected to run for reelection, but there’s a good chance fellow Liberal Democratic Party members will challenge him. Takeshi Onaga, Naha City’s mayor, is a leading candidate, it is being bantered about, as well as LDP member Kousaburo Nishime.

The opposition is certain to mount a strong challenge as they’d like to unseat the LDP after 12 years in power. Three names are already floating above the capital city as probable challengers, including the current Ginowan City mayor, Yoichi Iha, and House of Representatives member Mikio Shimoji. Another mayor said to be eying the governor’s seat is Mitsuo Gima, the Urasoe City mayor.

The politicians are talking, but they’re also looking at the Democratic Party of Japan’s circumstances. Since winning big last August, the DJP and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama have seen popularity waning. Many contend the DJP ousted the LDP in last year’s election not because people wanted them, but because people wanted a change from the LDP. That happened, but Hatoyama’s poll numbers continue to drop as he’s not made much of a dent in changing policies across Japan.

Hatoyama’s indecisiveness on how to proceed with the Futenma relocation issue is causing political unrest in many corners, and is likely to be a factor in the Nago City mayoral election early next year. Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who has endorsed the Futenma facility relocation, is running, but he’s expected to face heavy opposition. How much support those opposition candidates can muster from the DJP is a question. The U.S. has been pressing Hatoyama to make some decisions on moving Futenma relocation project forward, but Hatoyama is saying he wants to wait until sometime next year, perhaps May or June. That would be after the Nago City elections.

Hatoyama is also facing challenges in next summer’s House of Councilors election. If he cannot muster more support than he has now, he’ll again have to rely on junior coalition partners to get business accomplished. If Hatoyama’s poll numbers continue to drop, the questions intensify as to whether he can even maintain power.

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