Okinawa gets first Diet woman

Kyodo

Okinawa seemed certain to elect its first female Diet member Sunday as Mitsuko Tomon of the Social Democratic Party appeared to close out the Okinawa No.3 single-seat constituency.

The 57-year-old’s expected victory is in an electoral district that includes the city of Nago, where the upcoming Group of Eight summit is to be held and also where the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station heliport is to be relocated.

Five candidates were vying for the seat, and Tomon, former deputy governor of Okinawa under former Gov. Masahide Ota, emerged the victor.

“I will not go to the Diet alone, but as (the embodiment of) all the women of Okinawa,” Tomon told her supporters as her victory appeared imminent.

Tomon is also seen as being internationally minded, since she was also a teacher at an American school in Okinawa and has also served as a managing director of the prefecture’s foundation for international exchanges.

She served as a key supporter of the women’s movement at the time of the 1995 rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen. The incident prompted waves of criticism over the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

Tomon’s campaign was mainly a grassroots movement that focused on gaining the attention of female voters through her pledges regarding peace, welfare and education.

She was able to shake her conservative rivals, who had enlisted the support of current Gov. Keiichi Inamine and other municipal leaders.