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Okinawans vote in key local municipal assembly elections; U.S. base issue tops Nago residents’ balloting

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Voters in 25 Okinawan cities, towns and villages went to the polls Sunday in key local municipal assembly elections ahead of the Sept. 30 gubernatorial election.

In Nago, whether to oppose or agree to the construction of a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma off the coast of the city’s Henoko district has long divided the assembly.

The Futenma facility is situated in the densely populated city of Ginowan, also on the island.

As of late Sunday evening, anti-base candidates had secured 11 seats, while nine had been won by candidates who either agreed to accept Henoko or who had not made their positions clear. The official results of the Nago election are not expected to be known until early Monday morning.

Earlier this year in the Nago mayoral election, Taketoyo Toguchi defeated incumbent anti-base Mayor Susumu Inamine in a close race by emphasizing local economics over the Henoko controversy. But the Nago Municipal Assembly has long been almost equally divided among those opposed to the base and those who want the subsidies that come with it.

The voter turnout rate was just over 65 percent, the lowest rate for a municipal assembly election since 1970.

An election for the Ginowan Municipal Assembly was also held Sunday.