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'All Okinawa' camp opposing base relocation fails to score clean election sweep

NAHA -- The "All Okinawa" camp supporting Gov. Takeshi Onaga, an opponent of a controversial plan to relocate a U.S. air base in the prefecture, missed out on a perfect victory in the House of Representatives election on Oct. 22, as a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate supporting the relocation won in one of the prefecture's four single-seat constituencies.

In the Okinawa No. 4 constituency, LDP candidate Kosaburo Nishime, 63, a supporter of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the Okinawa city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture, defeated independent candidate Toshinobu Nakasato, 80.

Commenting on his defeat in the constituency, where vote-counting was delayed due to a typhoon that lashed Japan, Nakasato suggested that local outrage over the crash-landing of a U.S. military helicopter in the same month as the election did not spread far enough to influence voters in the No. 4 constituency.

"There was an accident in which a U.S. military helicopter went up in flames, but the wind from that didn't blow in the south part of Okinawa's main island," he said.

Nakasato formerly represented the LDP in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and is a conservative heavyweight in the All Okinawa camp, in which reformists and conservatives have joined hands.

During the election campaign period, Gov. Onaga visited the Okinawa No. 4 constituency, energetically supporting Nakasato, but Nishime won about 6,300 more votes than Nakasato to claim the constituency's lower house seat.

Commenting on the fact that three of the four seats in the single-seat electoral districts in the prefecture were won by members of the All Okinawa camp, Onaga told reporters, "The feelings of All Okinawa reached prefectural residents, and we were able to maintain the flow from three years ago" -- a reference to the previous House of Representatives election, in which the All Okinawa camp claimed all four seats."

However the blow from losing one seat to an LDP candidate is significant.

"Okinawa has resisted the government (over the base relocation) claiming that the election result represents the will of the people, so that one loss is painful. It may negatively affect the governor's unifying force," a source familiar with the All Okinawa camp said.

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