Three Okinawa city assemblies vote against referendum-related budgets

JIJI, Kyodo

The assemblies of three cities in Okinawa Prefecture on Thursday voted down their respective draft supplementary budgets including funds to cover costs for administrative work related to a planned prefectural referendum on a U.S. base relocation plan.

The three cities are Ginowan, Okinawa and Uruma. The referendum, set for Feb. 24, will ask Okinawa voters whether they approve or disapprove of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district, in the city of Nago.

In a statement addressed to Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki earlier this month, the Ginowan Municipal Assembly said the referendum lacks consideration of local people’s various opinions on the issue, instead only allowing voters to cast “yes” or “no” votes on the relocation plan.

Tamaki’s hopes to hold the referendum in all 41 Okinawa municipalities now appears difficult, as five other Okinawa municipal assemblies, including that of the city of Miyakojima, have not approved related budgets, observers said.

The governor opposes plans to relocate the base within the prefecture.

After the Ginowan Municipal Assembly voted down the city’s draft supplementary budget, its mayor, Masanori Matsugawa, asked for a fresh deliberation on the extra budget. But the assembly rejected the budget again.

Later, Matsugawa told reporters that he will make a decision after careful consideration. “The rejection by the assembly is very grave,” he said, indicating the possibility of the city not joining the referendum.

The municipal assemblies of Okinawa and Uruma are expected to organize fresh debates on the cities’ supplementary budgets in the near future, but they are likely to be rejected again.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government believes it is possible to hold the referendum even if related budgets are rejected by municipal assemblies.

Also Thursday, Kiichiro Jahana, deputy governor of Okinawa Prefecture, visited the city office of Miyakojima and sought cooperation from its mayor, Toshihiko Shimoji.