Nago, Okinawa Pref., Jan. 16 (Jiji Press)–The official campaign period started on Sunday for the Jan. 23 mayoral election in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, which will focus on a controversial U.S. base relocation project.
Candidacies were filed by Nago assembly member Yohei Kishimoto, 49, and incumbent Mayor Taketoyo Toguchi, 60, whose term of office is set to end on Feb. 7.
Kishimoto opposes the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air station from a congested area of Ginowan in the southernmost prefecture to the Henoko coastal district of Nago.
Meanwhile, Toguchi has support from the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, which push ahead with the project as the ruling parties in national politics.
Kishimoto, a first-time candidate, is backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi.
The election will take place amid increasing public distrust of the U.S. military in Okinawa, widely viewed as the epicenter of coronavirus in the current infection resurgence.
“I’m determined to stop the construction of a new base” in the relocation project, Kishimoto said a stump speech Sunday.
Meanwhile, Toguchi promised to create “an environment that will make it easier for women to work” including by reviewing existing assistance measures for child-rearing households.
Regarding the land reclamation work at Henoko, Kishimoto said taxpayers’ money should not be spent on the construction work because it is uncertain whether it can be completed at all.
Kishimoto also enjoys support from Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, who has rejected the central government’s application for design changes in the landfill work to reinforce newly found soft ground.
Toguchi, for his part, does not express his opinion on the relocation project. Since he was elected Nago mayor for the first time in 2018, he has been consistent in his stance of waiting to see the results of the legal battle between the central government and the prefecture on the issue.
The upcoming poll will be the seventh straight Nago mayoral election focusing on the relocation project.
The Nago race precedes a series of elections in Okinawa slated for 2022, including the gubernatorial race in autumn.
In these elections, the LDP-Komeito pair will clash head-on with the so-called All Okinawa camp, which opposes the relocation project.
The Nago election results are expected to affect the later races.