Voting Starts in Okinawa Pref. Assembly Election

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Naha, Okinawa Pref.(Jiji Press)—Voting kicked off Sunday morning in an election for the prefectural assembly of Okinawa, with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station within the southernmost Japan prefecture a major issue in the poll.

Balloting will last until 8 p.m., and vote counting is set to start soon later. A total of 75 candidates are vying for 48 seats in the election.

The focus is whether the prefectural ruling bloc in support of Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who is aiming to block the relocation of the U.S. base to the Henoko coastal district in the city of Nago from the city of Ginowan, or the opposition bloc, including the Liberal Democratic Party, will win a majority of the seats.

Of the 75 candidates, 34 are from parties forming the ruling bloc, including the Japanese Communist Party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party, while 33 are from parties in the opposition bloc, such as the LDP, Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party). The remaining eight are independent candidates.

One each from the ruling and opposition camps have secured their seats uncontested.

The Okinawa prefectural assembly currently has 24 members from the ruling camp and as many from the opposition side.

With an opposition side member serving as the assembly’s head, who does not participate in voting, Tamaki is in control of the management of the assembly.

The result of the election is likely to have an impact on Tamaki’s prefectural government administration.

Meanwhile, the LDP and others tolerant of the transfer of the Futenma base to the Henoko district are aiming to boost their presence in the assembly in the run-up to the Okinawa gubernatorial election set for 2026.

The Okinawa prefectural assembly election is crucial also for the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, after the LDP suffered defeats in a series of national and local elections recently in the wake of a high-profile slush fund scandal involving LDP factions.