By SHOGO MITSUZUMI, Staff Writer
ISHIGAKI, Okinawa Prefecture–The incumbent mayor of Ishigaki has won re-election, the latest in a string of blows dealt to Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki’s All Okinawa group.
Yoshitaka Nakayama, 54, who ran as an independent but was endorsed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, won his fourth term in the mayoral election on Feb. 27.
His rookie opponent, Yoshiyuki Toita, 52, a former Ishigaki city assembly member, was backed by the All Okinawa group, which is led by Tamaki. His defeat follows similar losses for candidates backed by All Okinawa in mayoral races in Nago and Nanjo in January.
And it puts the political decline of the All Okinawa group in the spotlight just ahead of the Upper House election this summer and the Okinawa gubernatorial election in the fall.
Tamaki and his group are pushing to block the government’s relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan city to the Henoko district in Nago city. The central government has been working to build a military base there for more than three years.
Nakayama gained 14,761 votes while Toita received 12,307 votes.
Voter turnout in the Ishigaki election was 70.54 percent. The total number of eligible voters on election day was 38,846.
The central issue in the election was a controversial plan to deploy the Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) on the island, near residential areas, to bolster defense of the region.
Nakayama has voiced his approval of the deployment plan since 2018.
“There were various kinds of opinions on this issue, but I started with the position of accepting the plan,” he said.
Citizens’ groups collected signatures from about 40 percent of local voters and petitioned the city to enact an ordinance to hold a referendum. But in February 2019, the city assembly rejected the request.
Nakayama campaigned on “activating the island’s economy.”
He attracted wider support through his countermeasures against the new coronavirus and recovery efforts aimed at increasing the number of tourists visiting the island.
“The wishes of our citizens have been left behind,” lamented Toita, who campaigned on holding a local referendum.