Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine won re-election late Sunday, dealing a setback to the central government’s plans to build a replacement air base for the U.S. Marines in the Henoko district just weeks after Okinawa’s governor approved the deal.
“This election was easy to understand. It was about one issue, the Henoko issue, and whether you were for or against the new base,” Inamine told supporters. “The people have spoken and they have said no.”
Inamine, 68, defeated former Okinawa Assemblyman Bunshin Suematsu, 65, by a vote of 19,839 to 15,684. Turnout was high at 76.71 percent.
During his campaign, Inamine vowed to remain a staunch opponent of moving U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from crowded Ginowan up north to Nago.
His re-election to a second term will create new headaches for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, and comes less than a month after Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima granted Tokyo permission to proceed with a base-related landfill project in Henoko Bay despite opposition from the mayor and the Nago city council.
Inamine received support from traditional anti-base opponents as well as conservative and unaffiliated voters who were angered by what they saw as a backroom deal between Abe and Nakaima to sell out Nago in exchange for ¥346 billion in development assistance in fiscal 2014, as well as a promised ¥300 billion annually for Okinawa until 2021, despite lacking any guarantee Tokyo could keep the promise in the event of political change.
Calls on Okinawa for Nakaima to resign before the next gubernatorial election, scheduled to be held by late November, are growing, and Inamine’s victory is likely to intensify efforts to oust him.
In addition, even those not part of the traditional anti-base movement were upset by the Abe-Nakaima deal and a sudden promise by LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba last week to provide Nago voters with an additional ¥50 billion in funding just for them if they backed pro-Henoko Suematsu.
Suematsu had been backed by local construction firms. He also received support from some fishermen in the Henoko district who were hoping that the base project would attract lucrative offers to give up their fishing rights in the area of Henoko Bay where it is to be built.
Information from Kyodo added