Nago City Council Election on September 12 resulted in the candicates supporting Mayor Inamine's opposition against a new base gained 16 seats, winning the majority in the 27-seat council....More details from The Mainichi...
The election was not a referendum on the base issue, but it sends a message to the Japanese and the U.S. governments that their heavy-handed efforts to buy off Nago's "min-i (democratic voices)" are not working. They should stop trying to convince voters of Nago, and start listening to them.
NAGO, Okinawa -- Local voters have expressed support for the mayor's opposition to relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to an offshore area of the city by giving pro-mayor forces a comfortable majority in the municipal assembly.
The opposition Nago residents expressed again toward the relocation through the Sept. 12 election has dealt a serious blow to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration, which has officially agreed with the United States to relocate the base off Nago.
Mayor Susumu Inamine expressed gratitude to local voters for supporting his opposition to the relocation plan.
"Just a few minutes ago, I received a report that opponents secured a majority. Local residents expressed their will," he told reporters at City Hall shortly after midnight on Sept. 13.
Inamine, who pledged never to allow the national government to build a base in inland or offshore areas of the city, was elected to his first term as mayor in the January 2010 election.
The DPJ had pledged during the campaign for the 2009 House of Representatives election to relocate Futenma base at least out of the prefecture. However, the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama retracted the pledge and decided in May to build a substitute facility for the base off the Henoko district of Nago.
The administration of Hatoyama's successor, Naoto Kan, followed the decision despite Mayor Inamine's stiff opposition, and announced a report by a Japanese and U.S. expert panel on the construction method of the planned new base in late August.
Excluding neutral members, the assembly had been evenly split between pro- and anti-mayor members until the Sept. 12 election. At one point, rumors circulated in the city that anti-mayor members would join hands with some of the neutral members to ram through a resolution agreeing on the relocation plan during its June session.
Some residents began to voice criticism of the city administration led by Inamine after the national government decided to withhold a grant for the city unless it agreed to host the base.
The main point of contention during the assembly election was whether voters would support the mayor or not, according to a municipal government official.
A candidate with close ties to former Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, who had agreed to host the base with some conditions attached, launched a massive election campaign with the backing of local businesses.
Toward the end of the campaign, it was rumored that anti-mayor candidates would likely win the election, prompting Mayor Inamine to take to the streets to call for support for pro-mayor, anti-base candidates.
Yoshitami Oshiro, 69, a pro-mayor candidate who won the election, said the results reflect local residents' will to ensure Inamine adheres to his opposition to the relocation.
"Local residents expressed their wish to stabilize the Inamine-led municipal administration," he said.
Yasuhide Miyagi, 55, an anti-mayor candidate who was elected to his first term by garnering the fifth largest number of votes of all candidates, did not comment on the overall results of the election when he addressed his supporters after the election.
However, Miyagi, leader of a local residents' group that has agreed to host the base with some conditions attached, told reporters, "I'd like to consult with the mayor and convey Henoko residents' will to him."
Hiroshi Kohagura, head of a local panel on base relocation countermeasures, said the election results reflect local residents' anger at the DPJ administration's betrayal of their trust.
"Prefectural residents expressed anger at Mr. Hatoyama for giving them hope and placing a ladder to heaven for them, only to then throw them into a bottomless pit," he said.
(Mainichi Japan) September 13, 2010