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It has been two years since former Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga died on Aug. 8, 2018. His successor, Gov. Denny Tamaki, has made opposition to the construction of a new military base in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, the pillar of his policies, and has continued with the All Okinawa political support base he inherited from Onaga.

But in the June prefectural assembly election, the ruling parties that support the governor’s policies had their number of seats reduced, ending up with nearly the same number of combined seats as the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito as well as smaller parties that have adopted a neutral stance toward the governor.

The All Okinawa group is also having problems fielding a candidate for Okinawa’s No. 4 district in the next Lower House election, and faces a mountain of problems.

With two years to go to the next gubernatorial election, the All Okinawa coalition faces a critical moment.

“If this goes on, Tamaki will be criticized for not taking leadership,” a senior member of the ruling party said after the June prefectural assembly sessions ended.

While the ruling party lost one seat in the election, the opposition and neutral parties camp expanded their total by three seats. The result was a total of 25 assembly seats for the ruling camp and 23 seats for opposition and neutral parties. In addition to the prefectural assembly chair and vice chair, the head and three of the four permanent committees were appointed to LDP members.

“We got the All Okinawa movement by the neck,” said an LDP source. The party is looking to take back the helm in the next gubernatorial election in two years’ time.

Under Onaga, a conservative politician, conservatives, reformers and some members of the local business community all rallied under one policy — opposing the building of a new military base off Henoko — to form the All Okinawa movement.

It was a breakthrough political movement, the first in prefectural political history, and All Okinawa became a major power in Okinawa politics.

After the 2014 governor’s election, the All Okinawa movement’s candidates chalked up 12 victories and only one loss in gubernatorial and national elections, receiving overwhelming support.

However, the All Okinawa movement is now on shaky ground.

For the prefectural assembly elections, the ruling parties could not get behind a unified candidate in Kunigami (on the northern part of the main island), Shimajiri and the Nanjo city districts, resulting in the defeat of a six-term political heavyweight.

In Kunigami, there’s an unpleasant aftertaste following the election.

“If a battle-hardened veteran like Onaga (were at the top), he would have made it work,” says a ruling party member who expressed dissatisfaction with Tamaki’s leadership.

For the next Lower House election, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan hopes to field its first candidate in the Okinawa No. 4 constituency. But so far, negotiations between parties has failed to bear fruit. In Okinawa’s No. 2 electoral district, Social Democratic Party members have been fighting over who will succeed retiring incumbent Kantoku Teruya.

Kunio Arakaki, mayor of Kitanakagusuku village, had been tapped to take over. But the LDP, seeing that some SDP members were not on board with that decision, is also hoping to field its own candidate to gain a seat.

If Arakaki loses, Teruya’s supporters will have failed to protect a seat he has held for 17 years, and that would cause huge damage to the All Okinawa movement.

After Onaga’s death, the head of major hotel chain group Kariyushi Co. announced they were leaving the movement, and there is now friction and dissonance within the All Okinawa organization.

Can the group, which gathered around the philosophy of opposing the construction of a new military base and called for withdrawing the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft, be maintained? Tamaki’s leadership is now being tested.

This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published Aug. 8.

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