Ex-Naha Mayor opposed to the construction of new US base wins Okinawa gubernatorial race

November 16, Ryukyu Shimpo

The former Mayor of Naha Takeshi Onaga, 64, has won the Okinawa gubernatorial election, held on November 16. Onaga, who had support from a wide range of voters, re-stated his promise to oppose the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago, where the governments of Japan and United States plan to build a new replacement offshore air base.

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 representing the LDP, in 1985. After serving for two terms, in 1992, he became a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. 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 an independent and served for four terms over 14 years. Onaga left his office this year.

Four candidates ran in the gubernatorial race, including Onaga, incumbent Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, 75, former State Minister in Charge of Postal Services Privatization Mikio Shimoji, 53, and former Upper House member Shokichi Kina, 66. Nakaima had the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his party. The incumbent has supported the government’s plan to move the Futenma base to Henoko, claiming he would stop the operation of the Futenma base within five years.

Onaga served as a co-representative of the executive committee that held an Okinawan people’s rally in 2012, which called for the closure of the Futenma base and the cancellation of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft deployment to Okinawa. He has insisted that Okinawan people should unite in an ‘All-Okinawa’ approach that goes beyond the framework of the conservative-versus-progressive party, in order to resolve the base issue. The ex-Naha Mayor has promised to follow-through on a petition to Prime Minister Abe requesting the easing of the base-hosting burden. This petition bears the signatures from the mayors of all 41 municipalities in Okinawa and the chairmen of the various assemblies.

Onaga is backed by the Social-Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the Okinawa Social Mass Party and the People’s Life Party. The Naha City Council’s conservative group members, who were expelled from the LDP after opposing the relocation plan, also supported the ex-Naha Mayor. They criticized Governor Nakaima’s approval of landfill required for the new base in Henoko.

In August, the government started a drilling survey for reclamation work in Henoko. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said Tokyo will go ahead with construction based on the incumbent governor’s approval. Despite Onaga’s victory, it appears the government still intends to carry out the relocation work. Onaga will consider revocation or withdrawal of Nakaima’s landfill approval. The result of the election will have a serious impact on the relocation plan.

(English translation by T&CT)

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