Onaga’s ruling party gets big win in Okinawa prefectural assembly election

Onaga's ruling party gets big win in Okinawa prefectural assembly election

June 6, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Yukito Toyama

On June 5, in the Okinawa prefectural assembly election, the ruling party which Governor Takeshi Onaga leads, maintained a majority, increasing three seats from 24 in the pre-election.

It was the first assembly election for Governor Onaga, who has been opposing the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko, since he took the office in December 2014.

The result of the election shows that the public supports the ruling party’s opposition to the Japanese and United States’ governments’ plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to Henoko, Nago. The ruling party’s win will create momentum for the Onaga administration to move forward with its policies, knowing it has been given a vote of confidence by the prefectural people.

Before the election, the ruling party had a narrow majority in parliament. Onaga said his government made it a high priority to win a sustainable majority.

However, the ruling party was concerned that too many candidates from its side ran for seats, which could detract from their chances.

Three key officials in the Onaga administration assisted the candidates belonging to the ruling party.
Vice Governor Mitsuo Ageda said there was a sense of crisis, saying, ” If we were to lose a majority, we would face serious difficulty, not being allowed to continue working against the Henoko relocation and even carry out our routine work.”

After the election was declared, Governor Onaga went to the streets almost daily in support of candidates from an organization called “All Okinawa”, which opposes the construction of a new base in Henoko.

Amid growing protests in the wake of the suspected murder of an Okinawan woman allegedly by a U.S. military civilian base worker, who is a former marine, the candidates who oppose the U.S. military presence in Okinawa gained support from voters.

However, the “All Okinawa” coalition will need to reunite after candidates competed against each other, waving their own political party flags. Two candidates belonging to Shimpu-kai, a conservative group in the Naha city council, which gave rise to the Onaga administration and has become something of a symbol of the “All Okinawa” movement, lost seats. Their loss may create ill feeling in the organization.

The number of seats gained by the opposition party was 15, including 14 seats won by the LDP and one by a conservative independent.

The LDP endorsed two candidates in Okinawa and Ginowan districts respectively, catching the momentum of a victory in the Ginowan mayoral election in January. However, the LDP did not increase its seats, with Onaga’s ruling party winning the two seats in Ginowan.

In other districts, the LDP lost some seats.

The LDP’s Okinawa branch has a policy of using every measure possible to enable the plan to relocate the Funtenma airfield to Henoko. Incidents involving U.S. military bases and personnel made the LDP’s candidates less attractive to voters.

The result of the election has forced the LDP to reorganize itself and reconsider its approach for the next elections.

(English translation by T&CT)

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