The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must have breathed a sigh of relief over the reelection of the incumbent it backed in the mayoral election in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on the heels of a series of local elections over the past two years that saw the victories of opponents to the national government's plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to another site in the prefecture.

Sunday's election results, however, should not be taken as an endorsement by local voters of the divisive project to build the Futenma replacement facility in the Henoko area of Nago in northern Okinawa. Incumbent Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who shrugged off the challenge by a contender backed by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, called for an early shutdown of the Futenma base but remained vague as to whether he supports the relocation to Henoko.

Sakima won 27,668 votes against 21,811 for the rival canditate Keiichiro Shimura, who echoed the governor's opposition to the Henoko project. But a Kyodo News exit poll showed that 56 percent of Ginowan voters oppose the relocation of Futenma base to Henoko, compared with 33 percent who support the plan. While 77 percent of the opponents of the Henoko plan voted for Shimura, the remaining 23 percent backed the incumbent. The gap in the election outcome and people's position toward the base issue reflects the complexity of local sentiments over the plan to relocate Futenma base.