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Anti-US base incumbent Shiroma wins Okinawa capital's mayoral race

Mikiko Shiroma (Mainichi)

NAHA -- Mayor Mikiko Shiroma of the Okinawa prefectural capital won her second term by beating out a candidate backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its national coalition partner Komeito on Oct. 21.

The victory of Shiroma, 67, an anti-U.S. base incumbent, dealt yet another blow to the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as Tokyo wages a legal fight against the Okinawa Prefectural Government to restart the relocation of a U.S. military base within Japan's southernmost prefecture.

With 48.19 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots during the election, Shiroma won 79,677 votes, while Masatoshi Onaga, 69, a former prefectural assembly member, collected only 42,446 votes in his favor.

Shiroma's win came on the heels of a victory by Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki, who is also against the relocation, in the Sept. 30 gubernatorial race. Tamaki and political parties and companies against the base relocation supported Shiroma in the race. Another anti-U.S. base candidate backed by Tamaki also won the Tomigusuku mayoral race on Oct. 14.

Japan and the U.S. agreed in 1996 to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the southern Okinawan city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of the city of Nago in the central part of the island. The relocation project has recently hit numerous obstacles due largely to local opposition.

As the Okinawa Prefectural Government retracted its permission for landfill work in the waters off Henoko for the relocation this August, the central government sought the nullification of the retraction to resume the sea reclamation work on Oct. 17.

(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)

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