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Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki is facing a crucial moment ahead of the next gubernatorial election scheduled for fall 2022, following a decrease of his support base comprising both conservatives and reformists.

Monday will mark the third anniversary of his inauguration as governor of the prefecture. He remains unable to stop the central government’s project to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station within the prefecture, while he has only one year left before his term ends.

The central government plans to relocate the air base in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in Nago.

“I’m keenly aware of my lack of ability,” Tamaki told a news conference Friday after being asked about the current situation of his supporter camp called All Okinawa.

In 2018, Tamaki was elected for the first time as governor of Okinawa, succeeding Takeshi Onaga, who died just before the election.

Tamaki asked the central government to withdraw the relocation plan, backed by the opposition to the plan expressed by over 70% of voters in a prefectural referendum.

However, the prefectural government lost a series of lawsuits it filed against the state to block construction work for the relocation.

It remains unable to find an effective way to stop ongoing landfill work for the relocation.

Meanwhile, conservative prefectural assembly members who supported Onaga, a former member of the Liberal Democratic Party, and business owners who served as big sponsors have left All Okinawa.

“The unifying power left by Onaga remained strong soon after the inauguration (of Tamaki). It is no longer maintained sufficiently,” a source close to Tamaki said.

In the prefecture, Nago and Okinawa mayoral elections are scheduled to take place early next year. They are seen as precursors to the next gubernatorial election.

Tamaki hopes to win a second term by adding momentum to the movement against the relocation plan in upcoming elections, including this autumn’s House of Representatives and next summer’s House of Councilors polls.

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