The Abe administration and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga are at loggerheads over the Miyakojima mayoral election scheduled for Jan. 22. Three new candidates and the incumbent are running in the election. While the administration supports the incumbent, Onaga is backing one of the three new candidates. As the election is thought to be an indicator of the results of the Okinawa gubernatorial election in 2018 and next House of Representatives election, the two sides are trying to expand their support bases.
The Liberal Democratic Party endorses incumbent Mayor Toshihiko Shimoji, while Onaga supports Kazuo Okuhira,a former member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and one of the three new candidates. “I consider both the Miyakojima and Urasoe mayoral elections to be very important,” LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai told supporters of the incumbent for the Urasoe mayoral election [voting scheduled for Feb. 12] at the LDP Headquarters on Jan. 6. By doing so, Nikai pledged the party’s “all-out support” for the incumbent.
The Abe administration believes that outcomes of the mayoral elections for Miyakojima, Urasoe, and Uruma, scheduled for April, will be directly linked to the power balance between the national government and the governor, who has opposed the relocation of the USMC Futenma airfield to Henoko. Among the 11 city mayors in Okinawa Prefecture, 2 support Onaga whereas 9, including Urasoe and Miyakojima, are cooperating with the national government. The mayors who support the administration formed a “Team Okinawa” to make budgetary requests to the national government.
Besides these three mayoral elections, a mayoral election for Nago, where Henoko is located, is scheduled for January 2018, and the Okinawa gubernatorial election will be held in the autumn of 2018. The term of the House of Representatives will expire at the end of next year. “If the incumbent loses in the Miyakojima election, the outcome might cause a chain reaction and affect all the other elections,” said an administration official. “That is why we must win the Miyakojima election,” said a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office. (Abridged)