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Let's discuss Okinawa's referendum

This week’s featured article

ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER

More than 70 percent of voters in Okinawa on Sunday voted against a plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Henoko — a coastal area in the northeastern part of the main island — in a closely watched prefecture-wide referendum that was the first of its kind on the issue.

According to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, turnout hit 52.48 percent, topping the 50 percent threshold — a line seen by observers as lending legitimacy to the referendum.

The prefectural government said the number of “no” votes stood at 434,273 or 72.2 percent of the total voters, and surpassed 396,632, the figure Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki garnered in last September’s gubernatorial election when he campaigned on a platform of blocking the relocation plan.

Some 19.1 percent voted in favor of the plan while 8.7 percent voted “neither” in the referendum.

“This is a big step for the development of democracy in Okinawa. I want the central government to respect the will of the Okinawan people,” Jinshiro Motoyama, who led the effort to hold the referendum, said as the votes were still being officially counted late Sunday.

Voters in all of Okinawa’s 41 cities, towns and villages were asked if they support the bilateral plan, oppose it, or neither.

With more than a fourth of eligible voters, or roughly 290,000 people, the vote must be respected by Tamaki and reported to the central government and the United States.

Tamaki now has such a mandate, as the “no” choice secured more than a quarter of all eligible voters.

Despite the rejection, the outcome is legally nonbinding. The central government, pushing hard to complete construction of an offshore replacement facility beside Camp Schwab, has said it will ignore the result and go ahead with construction.

However, with most voting “no,” the result is likely to embolden the anti-Henoko faction led by Tamaki and potentially lead to further efforts by the prefecture to use legal means to delay or halt construction. The central government began landfill work for the project in December.

Since taking office in 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has insisted, in line with previous Liberal Democratic Party administrations, that the Henoko plan is the only option for relocating Futenma.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 24.

Warm up

One minute chat about Okinawa.

Game

Collect words related to vote. e.g: politics, right, decide.

New words

1) referendum: general vote, e.g. “The regulation was set by referendum.”

2) legitimacy: lawfulness, e.g. “There is controversy over the legitimacy of a new territory.”

3) mandate: authority, e.g. “The government has a mandate to make a decision.”

Guess the headline

More than _ _ percent in Okinawa vote “no” to the re _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ of U.S. Futenma base to Henoko

Questions

1) What was the vote for?

2) What was the reaction to the vote from the central government?

3) When did the project start?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about the base?

2) Do you think this vote will affect the government project?

3) What do you think is the best solution for the issue?

Reference

長きにわたって国と県が対立しているような状態が続く沖縄の基地移設について、県が住民の民意を問う投票を行いました。投票した人の多くは反対の声をあげたようですが、住民の声は中央政府までどの程度届くのでしょうか。また、基地移設の代替案としてはどのようなことが考えられるのでしょうか。朝の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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