Leader opposing move to Henoko wins 3rd term in House of Councillors election

Leader opposing move to Henoko wins 3rd term in House of Councillors election

At 9:48 p.m. on July 21, Keiko Itokazu (center) responded to cheers from supporters in Naha after her victory for a third term in the Okinawa constituency in the 23rd House of Councillors election had become certain.

July 22, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Keiko Itokazu, 65, leader of the Okinawa Social Mass Party, won a third term in the Okinawa prefectural constituency for which one seat was contested in the July 21 House of Councillors election. Itokazu, who won 294,420 votes, beat first-time candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Masaaki Asato, 45, director of the Social Welfare Corporation, who received 261,392 votes, by a margin of 33,028 votes.

Mary Nijima, 67, an independent first-time candidate, gained 10,505 votes. Tatsuro Kinjo, 49, first-time candidate of the Happiness Realization Party, received 9,462 votes.

The LDP won a sweeping victory in elections nationwide. However, Itokazu’s victory highlights Okinawan people’s stiff opposition to the policy of the Abe administration to relocate the facilities at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa.

Itokazu is a candidate of the local party the Okinawa Social Mass Party and was recommended by opposition parties such as the People’s Life Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Green Wind. During the election campaign she advocated preserving “one seat for peace.” Referring to the efforts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to amend Article 96, which defines the requirements for Constitutional amendment, she emphasized her standpoint of protecting the Constitution, which has won her support.

While Asato and the Okinawa chapter of the LDP have advocated relocating Futenma outside of the prefecture, the LDP headquarters promotes the relocation of Futenma to Henoko as part of its election promise. Itokazu has pointed out that the campaign pledges of the local chapter and the Tokyo headquarters of the LDP are out of kilter. The struggle between the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party in their local chapters also contributed to her victory. It was beneficial for both parties to support Itokazu to gain votes for their proportional representation candidates. In addition to those of supporters of the opposition parties such as the People’s Life Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Green Wind, Itokazu gained far more votes than Asato from independents.

Asato emphasized his ability as a ruling party candidate to affect the execution of policy, but the misaligned pledges of the local chapter and the headquarters of the LDP on the Futenma relocation issue negatively affected his campaign. This delayed his preparation for the election. Party leaders, including the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers came to Okinawa one after another to support his campaign, but his camp was unable to gain the support of the undecided and independent voters.

Other candidates Nijima and Kinjo were unable to get their policies to appeal to the voters.

Voter turnout was 53.43 percent, an increase of 0.99 percent from 52.44 percent in the Upper House election in 2010.

The total number of voters, including those overseas, was 1,102,534 people (535,768 men and 566,766 women).

“The public won the election”Opposition leader Keiko Itokazu commented, “The Okinawan public has won the election. I will be proud to fight against the central government as a member of the House of Councilors from Okinawa. There are problems such as the Constitution, TPP and the consumption tax hike. The Liberal Democratic Party has been the sole winner, but Abenomics will show its true colors soon. I want to work hard in the House for residents and public.”

Keiko Itokazu, who was born October 11, 1947 in Yomitan Village, graduated from Yomitan Senior High School before working as a bus guide. She was first elected as a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly in 1992, serving three terms. She was first elected to the House of Councillors in 2004. She lost the Okinawa gubernatorial election in 2006 and made a come back in the House of Councillors election in 2007. Currently, she is chairwoman of the Okinawa Social Mass Party.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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