Anti-US base at Henoko candidate Iha wins massive victory defeating state minister Shimajiri in Upper House election

Anti-US base at Henoko candidate Iha wins massive victory defeating state minister Shimajiri in Upper House election

Anti-US base candidate Yoichi Iha (the center of the first row), who won in the Upper House election, makes banzai cheers with his supporters at 8:28 p.m. on July 10 in Naha City. (Photograph taken by Sanenori Kinjo)

July 11, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

Former Ginowan Mayor and independent new candidate Yoichi Iha, 64, won a seat for the first time in the Okinawa prefectural constituency in the July 10 Upper House election.

He beat the incumbent state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Aiko Shimajiri, 51, who ran for the LDP, with support from the party’s junior coalition partner Komeito, by a wide margin of 106,400 votes, capturing 356,355 votes.

Iha’s victory means that the “ALL Okinawa” camp, which opposes the government’s plan to relocate the U.S. Futenma airfield to Henoko in Nago, has captured all the seats representing Okinawa constituencies, including both of the two upper house seats and all four lower house seats.

While the ruling LDP party claimed victory across the nation, the voters in Okinawa judged the Abe administration severely for pressing forward with the Henoko relocation plan and the revision of the constitution.

Iha won broad support from voters, highlighting the Henoko issue and using the catch phrase “a peaceful Okinawa with no bases.”

He received full support from the “ALL Okinawa” camp, including the ruling party of the Onaga administration, Shimpu-kai, which is a conservative group in the Naha city council, as well as labor organizations and some business groups. He also gained some conservative votes with the help of Governor Takeshi Onaga, who has a high popularity rating.

He attracted political independent voters with achievements in welfare policy during his term as Ginowan City Mayor, and by highlighting partnerships with the prefectural government towards promoting economic development.

Shimajiri staged her election campaign with the support of conservative prefectural assembly members, municipal government heads and business leaders. Nonetheless, she faced a tough situation from the beginning of the campaign, receiving a strong negative reaction from voters. She previously won a second term in the 2010 Upper House Election on a pledge to relocate the Futenma base out of the prefecture, however she withdrew the pledge later.

Shimajiri emphasized her achievements in gaining funds for economic development and for poverty support measures for children during the campaign. But the alleged murder and rape of a 20-year-old Okinawa woman by a U.S. civilian base worker in April triggered anti-U.S. base sentiment. And, some conservative voters turned against her.

New candidate Tatsuro Kinjo, 52, who was backed by the Happiness Realization Party, gained 9,937 votes.
Voter turnout stood at 54.46 percent, up 1.03 points from the 2013 Upper House election. In the basic voter lists, the number of voters, including those abroad, was 1150,806 voters (560,368 male voters and 590,438 female voters)

(English translation by T&CT)

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