• Kyodo

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Former Zushi Mayor Kazuyoshi Nagashima was returned to office Sunday in an election made necessary when he quit last month to protest a plan to build more residential units in a U.S. military site.

Nagashima, 36, defeated one contender, medical doctor Teruko Ikegami, 64, who was also against the construction program but said he should be mayor because Nagashima had been at odds with most assembly members in the Kanagawa Prefecture city.

Both Nagashima and Ikegami are independents.

Voting turnout was 50.48 percent, down from 52.48 percent last December when Nagashima was elected to his second four-year term.

Nagashima will serve the rest of his second term ending Dec. 24, 2006, in line with the Public Offices Election Law.

The controversial expansion project involves a U.S. military housing complex that lies in Yokohama and Zushi. Nagashima resigned with the intention of running again to receive a public mandate to stop the construction plan.

The Zushi Municipal Assembly rejected Nagashima’s resignation, with most assembly members saying the action was “too sudden” and suggested “desertion from his office.”

He stepped down nonetheless because a mayor does not require municipal assembly approval to resign under the Local Autonomy Law.

Japan and the U.S. agreed in July to build 800 additional housing units in the Yokohama part of the Ikego residential area. In exchange the U.S. is to return to Japan four military sites in Yokohama.

Nagashima has said the national government broke its promise to build no additional facilities in the area even if the houses will be constructed on the Yokohama side.