Bad news for proponents of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma transfer in Okinawa
Candidates opposed to the relocation of the base from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to a less populated coastal district in Nago are expected to win at least 14 seats in the 26-member assembly
Candidates opposing the planned relocation of a US military base in Okinawa maintained a majority in Sunday’s local assembly election in Nago, where the replacement facility will be built.
The result could bode ill for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for the long-stalled transfer of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and also affect the Okinawa gubernatorial election on September 30.
Candidates opposed to the relocation of the base from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to a less populated coastal district in Nago won 15 seats in the 26-member assembly. The remaining 11 elected were supportive of the relocation or did not clarify their position.
Voter turnout was more than 65 per cent, down more than 5 percentage points from the previous election in 2014 and the lowest on record since 1970, the local election board in Nago said.
The results came after independent newcomer Taketoyo Toguchi, backed by the central government, defeated anti-US base incumbent Susumu Inamine in the Nago mayoral election in February.
Some 20 people attended a rally held on Monday morning in front of the gate of the US Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab, located next to the relocation site.
“We won. We stopped the wind blowing at the time of the February mayoral election,” a man said at the rally.
Toguchi told reporters on Monday, “Citizens’ opinions are divided to some extent”, adding that he will closely watch the response by the prefectural and central governments over the base issue.
The relocation plan will also be the most contentious issue in the upcoming gubernatorial election to fill the post left vacant by the recent death of former Governor Takeshi Onaga, who confronted the central government over the plan and led efforts to reduce the US military presence in Japan’s southernmost prefecture.
Following Onaga’s instruction, the prefecture last month retracted its approval for landfill work at the relocation site, claiming illegality in the application process.