Opposing Forces Win Majority in Okinawa Assembly Election; Outcome Presents Challenging Situation for Governor Tamaki

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki talks about the results of the prefectural assembly election in Naha on Monday.

NAHA — Parties opposed to Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki won a majority of the seats in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election on Sunday, with 28 out of 48 seats going to parties including the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito.

It was the first time for the LDP and Komeito to secure a majority in the prefectural assembly since 2008. Tamaki has been at odds with the central government over security policies, and is likely to face challenging times in governing the prefecture going forward.

“I take [the results] seriously. I’ll address them firmly, as I believe the demands of the assembly will become stronger,” Tamaki said early Monday.

The prefectural assembly election was seen as an interim assessment of the governor’s second term. Among the groups opposing Tamaki in the assembly, the LDP saw all 20 of the candidates it endorsed win seats. The LDP held 18 seats before the election.

Komeito had two seats before Sunday’s election, and saw all four of its candidates win. On the governor’s side, the Japanese Communist Party, which previously held seven seats, saw a significant decrease to 4. The LDP is poised to intensify its efforts in preparation for the gubernatorial election two years from now.

Supported by a majority of prefectural assembly members, Tamaki has been engaged in legal battles with the central government over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko coastal district in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

Tamaki reiterated to the press on Monday that his opposition to the relocation of the base “remains unwavering.”

Regarding the shift of defense capabilities to the Nansei Islands, a policy that the central government has been promoting, Tamaki has also taken a cautious stance on allowing the Self-Defense Forces to use airports and ports under prefectural management.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference on Monday morning that “the permanent stationing [of the Futenma base] must absolutely be avoided.’”

“We’ll work to achieve a complete return [of the base] as soon as possible” by steadily carrying out the relocation work, Hayashi said.