NAGO, Okinawa Prefecture–A candidate backed by the ruling coalition won the Feb. 4 mayoral election here over the anti-U.S. base incumbent, bolstering Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to build a military airfield in the city.
Taketoyo Toguchi, a former Nago assembly member, defeated Susumu Inamine, who was seeking his third term as Nago mayor.
“Incumbent mayors are said to be at their strongest when running for a third term,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo on Feb. 5. “We felt it would be difficult to defeat him, but we are very pleased to have won.”
Abe added that the central government would provide the necessary support to implement Toguchi’s pledges made during the campaign.
Inamine, an independent backed by major opposition parties, ran on a campaign opposing the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in the prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago.
Toguchi, also an independent who was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), emphasized measures to revitalize the local economy.
While not coming out directly in favor of constructing the replacement base in Nago, Toguchi said he would abide by court decisions on various lawsuits filed by the Okinawa prefectural government and the central government over the issue.
“I believe voters were sending a message of ‘Change Nago’ and develop it into a brighter community,” Toguchi told reporters after his victory on Feb. 4.
Inamine had long opposed the Futenma relocation, saying the prefecture is shouldering too big of a burden in hosting U.S. military facilities in Japan.
His defeat could affect the strategy of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, another staunch critic of the Henoko move, as well as the gubernatorial election to be held later this year.