• Kyodo

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The Defense Ministry came under fresh fire Tuesday for allegedly trying to meddle with the upcoming mayoral election in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the host city for the Futenma U.S. air base.

Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters his ministry has sent personnel to the prefecture to investigate the matter, which came to light after an opposition lawmaker raised the matter in the Diet.

Seiken Akamine of the Japanese Communist Party, citing email he says he has obtained, told the Lower House Budget Committee that the bureau instructed its various divisions by email to find out which of its personnel’s Ginowan-based relatives are eligible to vote and created a list of them in January.

The people on the list were then called on to listen to a “lecture” by the bureau chief, Ro Manabe, according to Akamine.

Ministry sources later acknowledged that emails to that effect were sent and that Manabe did give a lecture, while several others at the ministry said Manabe likely called on the people on the list to vote in the election.

The bureau is still reeling from the furor caused last year by its former chief’s offensive comments in connection with the relocation of Futenma from Ginowan to another part of Okinawa.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura called the latest incident a “serious” matter that needs to be verified, and said that on confirmation the government will take “strict measures” to deal with it.

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