In the first of several Okinawa elections this year with national political and defense implications, voters in Nago go to the polls Jan. 23 to choose a mayor.

Their choice boils down to a candidate who is generally in favor of the relocation plans for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, from a congested area of Ginowan to Nago's Henoko coastal district, or one who is adamantly against it.

Depending on the victor, the long-controversial project — already years behind schedule — could either continue to move forward as currently planned or face further delays. The latter possibility would create political complications for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and affect U.S.-Japan defense relations.