NAHA, Okinawa Pref.: The ruling bloc supporting Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who is against a controversial plan to relocate a US military base within the southernmost Japan prefecture, maintained its majority in Sunday's prefectural assembly election.
With the victory, Tamaki is poised to continue seeking to block the plan to move the US Marine Corps' Futenma air base in Ginowan, a densely populated city in Okinawa, to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, also Okinawa, demanding the base be moved out of the prefecture. The relocation plan is based on a Japan-US agreement.
Of the 48 seats in the assembly, 25 were won by the ruling bloc, including the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, down by one from the preelection strength, while 21 went to the opposition camp, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party. The so-called neutral camp secured two seats.
The LDP added seats but failed to secure a majority together with Komeito and conservative independents.
"We could receive a certain appreciation from the people of Okinawa," Tamaki said to reporters after the election results came out. "My anti-relocation position remains unchanged."
Before the election, the assembly had 26 members from the ruling bloc, 18 from the opposition camp and two from the neutral camp, with two seats vacant.
Voter turnout came to a record low of 46.96 percent, down 6.35 percentage points from the previous election four years ago, apparently reflecting reduced campaign activities amid the spread of the new coronavirus.
Whether to support the base relocation plan was the main focal point of the election, which was also viewed as an interim assessment of Tamaki, inaugurated in autumn 2018.
Although the LDP and other opposition parties aimed to force the ruling bloc to lose a majority in the prefectural assembly, so as to gain a foothold for winning the next gubernatorial election in 2022, they are now pressed to review their strategy. Observers say the LDP apparently faced a headwind from increasing criticism of the Abe administration's response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Akira Nagatsuma, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan's election committee, said in a statement that Abe's government should seriously take the election results and give up on the relocation-related construction works.
Also releasing a statement, Komeito election committee head Shigeki Sato indicated a plan to analyze the reasons why the coalition of the LDP and Komeito could not win a majority.