NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. - The ruling bloc-backed incumbent won Sunday’s mayoral election in the city of Okinawa, dealing a blow to opponents of the Futenma base relocation plan.
Sachio Kuwae, 62, backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, Komeito, defeated Hiromi Moromisato, 56, a newcomer endorsed by the prefecture’s anti-base governor.
The outcome is yet another blow to Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga ahead of the gubernatorial election set to be held this fall.
Voter turnout sank to a record-low 47.27 percent.
Moromisato, a former member of the municipal assembly, was supported by opposition parties including Kibo no To (Party of Hope), the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party.
This is the third time in four mayoral elections this year that a Onaga-backed candidate has lost. While the candidate supported by Onaga won the race in Nanjo in January, candidates backed by the ruling bloc won in Nago in February and Ishigaki in March.
Onaga opposes the bilateral plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from crowded Ginowan to Nago and says the base should be removed from the prefecture.
But the central government has said the Futenma plan is “the only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the base without undermining the deterrence provided by American troops under the Japan-U.S. alliance. The base is close to schools and homes in Ginowan.
Okinawa, the second-largest city in the prefecture after Naha, the capital, has 107,710 eligible voters, according to the local election board.