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Candidates square off for gubernatorial election

Date Posted: 2010-10-21

It’s all official now; Okinawa Governor Hirokazu is running for reelection, and his chief opponent, Yoichi Iha, resigned from his post as mayor of Ginowan City to let get his candidacy going as the race for the prefecture’s gubernatorial election moves toward November 28th.

The 71-year-old Nakaima, seeking his second term, told citizens via a news conference he wants to pave the way for a future Okinawa, and that, he says, should include the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma being moved out of Okinawa to eliminate risks. Nakaima says he wants Japan to take immediate steps to move the base “as early as possible”, declaring it’s his goal to protect the lives and property of people in Ginowan and across Okinawa.

Nakaima has long been affiliated with the now-opposition Liberal Democratic Party. He’s drawing support both from the LDP and the Komeito. Even as Nakaima was insisting Japan should take steps to reduce the burden of hosting U.S. military bases here, he’s asked the central government to not introduce pay cuts for any Japanese employees working on U.S. bases. Japan is currently considering cuts in host-nation support.

The Okinawa governor also wants the central government to step up its measures to protect the safety of Japanese fishing boats in southern Japanese waters. Waters in Okinawa Prefecture have been the scene of a confrontation between the Japan Coast Guard and a Chinese ftrawler in the disputed Senkaku Islands area.

Yoichi Iha, who’s been the staunchly anti-bases mayor of Ginowan City, resigned from that office Monday, paving the way for his challenge to Nakaima. Iha served one full term as mayor, and 2˝ years on a second term. The Ginowan City Assembly accepted his resignation. Iha is being backed by the Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and the Okinawa Social Masses Party.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has decided against fielding a candidate for the upcoming Okinawa gubernatorial election. DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada and other party executives are still working on specifics of what it wants party faithful to do, but it’s believed those affiliated with the DPJ will be told to vote however they feel necessary. The official campaign season starts November 11th, and the DPJ says it would be difficult to field its own candidate. The DPJ also says it will maintain a hands-off approach to endorsements for either Governor Nakaima or challenger Iha.

On a related note, former House of Representatives member Osamu Ashitomi and former Ginowan City vice Mayor Takeshi Asato have stepped into the limelight as candidates to take Iha’s place as Ginowan City mayor. The 54-year-old Ashitomi has support from the LDP and Komeito-affiliated Ginowan City Assembly members as well as the Okinawa Prefecture governor’s side, and the business community. Governor Nakaima and House of Representatives member Aiko Shimajiri are both personally campaigning for him. Little is known about the former vice mayor, 58-year-old Asato. He’s being supported by Iha and the Japanese Communist and socialist parties. The mayoral election will also take place November 28th.

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