Okinawa gubernatorial race starts with four candidates

Okinawa gubernatorial race starts with four candidates

Mikio Shimoji (from left), Shokichi Kina,Takeshi Onaga, and Hirokazu Nakaima.

October 31, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The 12th Okinawa gubernatorial election started on October 30. Four candidates, including former State Minister in Charge of Postal Services Privatization Mikio Shimoji, 53, former Upper House member Shokichi Kina, 66, former Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, 64, and incumbent Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, 75, are running. All of them have announced their candidacies as independent.

Their policies are clearly different on the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relocation issue, which is the major issue of the election.

The Okinawan people’s decision on the new governor will significantly influence the plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko, Nago, where a new replacement offshore U.S. air base would be built. A fierce race is expected.

Ballot-casting will start on November 16, and the votes will be counted on the same day.

On the morning of October 30, each of the candidates started their campaigns after filing their candidacies.

As well as differing on the Henoko relocation, they also have different policies regarding the approval of casinos in Okinawa. The candidates will actively debate over policies of economic promotion, education, child-support, and public welfare.
The centrist parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komei Party have ruled Okinawa for four terms over 16 years. However, the conservatives have split this time. The ruling party’s partner, the Komei Party, has decided to allow their supporters to vote voluntarily. This election will not be fought along the old battle lines of conservative versus liberal.

While Shimoji suggested holding prefecture-wide referendum to let voters decide the outcome of the relocation issue, Kina says he aims to rescind and cancel Nakaima’s approval of the Henoko landfill. Onaga strongly opposes the plan and will ask the U.S. and Japanese governments to move the base outside Okinawa and Japan. Nakaima claims he will stop the operation of Futenma Air Station within five years. He supports the plan to move it to Henoko.

Although the Japanese government has said that it intends to push the plan regardless of the election result, Okinawan people’s decision on the new governor could influence the progress of the relocation.

At his campaign launch party, held in the Izumizaki district of Naha, Shimoji said, “I would like Okinawan people to decide whether they want the base to remain in the area, and the central government should follow their decision. If the people oppose the plan, I will suggest an alternative plan. If they approve the relocation, the central government can fairly and squarely carry out the construction work.”

At his departing ceremony in Kudaka Island of Nanjo City, Kina said, “I declare that I will cancel Nakaima’s approval of the Henoko landfill. People do not need U.S.military bases in Okinawa or anywhere in the world either.”

In his campaign-opening speech, in the Tsubogawa district of Naha, Onaga said, “Futenma Air Station should be moved outside of Japan or Okinawa. I will do everything I can to prevent the new base construction.”

At his election-campaign party, held in the Makishi district of Naha, Nakaima said; “We need to relocate Futenma Air Station, which is the most dangerous in the world, to Henoko. I will do my best to stop the operation of the base within five years, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised.”

Shimoji:hold a prefecture-wide referendum to let voters decide the relocation issue
I would like to end the relocation issue by holding a prefecture-wide referendum.
We are in political turmoil. Although the LDP lawmakers elected from Okinawa pledged to move the base outside Okinawa, they changed their minds and pushed for relocating it within the prefecture.
We cannot solve the issue by electing politicians based on whether they favor or oppose the plan. Okinawan people should play the leading part and decide on the issue. Abe should follow that decision. I have a big dream. I will build a railroad in Okinawa within 10 years.
By constructing Universal Studios and ball game theme parks, I would like to energize Okinawa.
I will make educational expenses free to end child poverty in Okinawa. If I win the election, I will be the first Okinawa Governor in their 50s. I will change the history of Okinawa. I will become an outstanding governor nationwide.

Mikio Shimoji was born in Miyakojima City on August 14, 1961. Shimoji graduated from Chuo Gakuin University. Belonging to the LDP, he became a Lower House member in 1996. Shimoji turned became an independent in 2005, and belonged to the People’s New Party in 2009. He became a Lower House member four times. Shimoji took up a post as executive head of the party in 2010. After serving as State Minister in Charge of Postal Services Privatization and Minister of State for Disaster Management in 2012, he lost an election.

Kina: cancel Nakaima’s approval of the Henoko landfill
I declare that I will cancel the governor’s approval of the landfill. I will do everything I can to cancel the approval. There are currently many wars all around the world. I will bring the heart of Okinawa to the world and make the flower of peace bloom. If mountains and seas are vibrant, we can live life. Although there are ongoing desertization of land, destruction of tropical rainforests and anathermal, we could launch the energy and science revolution from Okinawa. Being rich does not make stable economy. I will set up guaranteed minimum income system in remote islands of Okinawa for the first time in Japan to establish a lifestyle, in which people can live off the earth on islands.

Shokichi Kina was born in Okinawa City on June 10, 1948. He left Okinawa International University without a diploma. Kina became a musician. Belonging to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), he was elected as an Upper House member under proportional representation in 2004. In the same year, Kina took up a post as a representative of the Okinawa branch of the DPJ. He lost an election in 2010. Kina resigned as representative of the Okinawa branch of the DPJ in October 2014. The DPJ expelled him from the party because of his running for the governor.

Onaga: never allow the construction of the new base to happen
This morning, I joined my hands in prayer in front of Tower of Souls in Mabuni, Itoman. I am mortified that many people died in the Battle of Okinawa. I thought from my heart, the origin of politics should derive from peace. Although I am a conservative, I am an Okinawan conservative. I express understanding for the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements. However, I will never tolerate the unreasonableness of focusing 74 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan on Okinawa that makes up less than 0.5 percent of the nation’s territory.
I will do everything I can to prevent the new base from being built in Henoko. Some of the lawmakers reneged on their pledges to move the base outside Okinawa. However, Okinawan people have not changed. Through this election, Okinawan people express their opposition against the construction of the new base. We would like to make our children and grandchildren proud of Okinawa, which has a hopeful future that will launch into Asia and the world. We will accomplish this goal.

Takeshi Onaga was born in Naha on October 2 1950. He graduated from Hosei University. After working as a company employee, Onaga became a member of the Naha City Assembly with the LDP in 1985. After serving for two terms, he became a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly in 1992. After serving for two terms at the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, Onaga took up a post as the executive head of the Okinawa branch of the LDP. He became Naha Mayor as independent and served for four terms over 14 years. Onaga left his office this year.

Nakaima: priority is to solve Futenma Air Base problems
With pride as an Okinawan, I will devote the rest of my energy to solving the problems caused by Futenma Air Base. That’s the priority. I approved the Henoko landfill at the end of the last year. Abe assured us that the Japanese government would stop the operation of the base within five years. Although it was a painful choice, people in the Henoko district support my decision with conditions.
By making the area occupied by the base smaller and moving it one kilometer away from the residential districts, we will make the base safer. I would like Okinawan people to reach out to Ginowan residents and help each other. The Okinawan economy is becoming independent. Please give me another four years so that I can protect your lives. I am pretty sure that I can bring results.

Hirokazu Nakaima was born in Naha on August 19 1939. He graduated from the University of Tokyo. Nakaima started working at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry from 1961. In 1990, he became vice governor and worked for then governor Masahide Ota. Nakaima was consecutively the president of the Okinawa Electric Power Company and the president of the Joint Association of Chamber of Commerce of Okinawa. He became Okinawa Governor in 2006. This is his second term.

(English translation by T&CT)

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