• Jiji

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A candidate supported by the ruling bloc has lost to an opposition-backed rival in the first of a series of mayoral elections in Okinawa Prefecture, in a blow to the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the run-up to next year’s Okinawa gubernatorial election.

In the mayoral poll in the city of Miyakojima on Sunday, Kazuyuki Zakimi, 71, an independent supported by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, defeated incumbent Mayor Toshihiko Shimoji, 75, who also ran as an independent candidate and was backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

Zakimi, set to become Miyakojima mayor for the first time, was also backed by the so-called All Okinawa camp, which supports Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, a staunch opponent of the government’s plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base in the city of Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in the city of Nago.

While mayoral elections are scheduled in two more cities later this year, in Urasoe in February and in Uruma in April, both also regarded as precursors to the upcoming governor race, the election loss in Miyakojima is believed to have hit hard the Suga administration, which aims to have an LDP-backed candidate win the 2021 gubernatorial election to recapture the Okinawa prefectural administration from Tamaki.

Voter turnout in the Miyakojima mayoral election came to 65.64%.

Both Zakimi, a former Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member from the LDP, and Shimoji, who failed to win a fourth term as Miyakojima mayor, were tolerant of the deployment of Ground Self-Defense Force troops in the city, an issue in the previous mayoral election.

The GSDF deployment is part of the central government’s measures to enhance the defense of southwestern islands of the country.

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