• Jiji

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After two years in office, Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki faces the critical question of whether he can maintain his support base due to his failure to produce tangible results on the planned transfer of a U.S. military base within the prefecture.

The core support base of Tamaki, who marked the second anniversary of his coming to power earlier this month, is the All Okinawa camp, which brought together liberals and conservatives under the banner of blocking the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in Nago.

But the movement appears to be losing momentum.

Meanwhile, the central government is proceeding with landfill work off the Henoko coast ahead of the construction of a replacement facility.

Tamaki won the Okinawa gubernatorial election in 2018, pledging to inherit the will of his predecessor, Takeshi Onaga, who died in August that year.

Tamaki basically took over the policies of Onaga, who did not hesitate to confront the administration of then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But Tamaki also sought dialogue to resolve the relocation issue.

The central government, however, refuses to set up a forum to discuss the matter, effectively ignoring Tamaki’s calls for dialogue.

The government completed landfill work on Sept. 30 in one of the sections where soil-dumping work started at the end of 2018.

“The governor did nothing in his first two years in office,” a neutral member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly said.

Denny Tamaki | KYODO
Denny Tamaki | KYODO

Last month, a business owner who has major political influence in Okinawa offered to resign as head of Tamaki’s election campaign support group. In the assembly, a center-right group in the ruling bloc has said it will consider from now on whether to support Tamaki’s policies issue by issue.

“We are excluded from the current All Okinawa camp, which now resembles the unified reformist force between socialists and communists seen in the past,” a member of the center-right group said. “We are not All Okinawa anymore.”

At a news conference on Oct. 2, Tamaki said that the origin of the All Okinawa camp lies in the wish to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base as soon as possible.

“There is no change at all in this policy,” he said, calling on his supporters to unite.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who pushed ahead with the relocation plan as chief Cabinet secretary, is expected to maintain the government’s policy of implementing Japan-U.S. agreements, including on the base relocation.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, Tamaki has had to cancel prefecture-hosted symposiums intended to win support for the movement to block the relocation. The symposiums had been held in major cities across the country since June 2019.

“His re-election depends on what achievements he can show during the remaining two years,” a source close to Tamaki said of the governor’s current situation.

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