NAGO, OKINAWA PREF. – In a last-ditch attempt to win votes for the pro-base candidate in Sunday’s Nago mayoral election, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba has promised voters Tokyo will set up a ¥50 billion fund to be used to revitalize the local economy.
Ishiba made the announcement late last week after local media polls showed that Bunshin Suematsu, the LDP-backed mayoral candidate who favors relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, was trailing incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine, a staunch opponent of the move.
The details of the sizable fund, however, were not announced.
Before Ishiba’s announcement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government agreed to provide ¥346 billion in development assistance to Okinawa during fiscal 2014, which begins April 1. In addition, Abe promised Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima that another ¥300 billion would be thrown in annually until fiscal 2021.
However, much of that funding money is expected to go toward projects in the more populated southern and central parts of the main island, where Naha and cities like Ginowan and Okinawa City are, prompting criticism in Nago that more money is needed for the northern part of the main island.
While pro-relocation Suematsu sees Ishiba’s pledge as a chance to build new public works projects in and around the Nago area, base-foe Inamine blasted the move, saying it was clearly designed to buy votes.
Voter turnout Sunday is expected to be heavy, with polls early last week, prior to Ishiba’s announcement, showing that Inamine was leading the race but that roughly 20 percent of Nago’s voters remain undecided.