[Okinawa Crying Out]
Election:Opposition Camp Victory
Conservative and Reform Parties Cooperate
2014 was a banner year for elections in Okinawa, and a major milestone in the issue of returning MCAS Futenma. In the January Nago mayoral, November gubernatorial and December Lower House elections, candidates who opposed construction of a new base at Henoko in Nago City won in each election. In the most important election in Okinawan politics the election for governor, Takeshi Onaga triumphed by a 100,000 vote margin over incumbent Hirokazu Nakaima, a conservative politician who proclaimed his opposition to Henoko yet approved the Henoko land reclamation.
In the Nago City community where turmoil arose over the issue of a new base, incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine ran in the January 19 mayoral race on a platform of opposition to Henoko and was reelected, beating Bunshin Suematsu, a proponent of the relocation to Henoko, by 4,155 votes.
In his first term, Mayor Inamine was able to bring together conservative and progressive factions within the city. But, during the election for his second term last year, he garnered new support from the tourism industry's Kariyushi Group and others in the business community to defeat Bunshin Suematsu, who had the strong backing of the national government and Liberal Democratic Party.
This new political structure, in which the contours of conservative and progressive political parties was transcended and support from the business community gleaned, also held true for Onaga when he ran in the gubernatorial election on November 16.
Stepping down as Naha City mayor, Onaga declared his candidacy and called on everyone to rally under the slogan of "All Okinawa." He also received the support of some conservative legislators and the business community. The national government moved to shore up support for Hirokazu Nakaima by having Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reach out to provide unprecedented support. Nevertheless, Onaga amassed a majority, including the backing of independent voters to achieve his first election victory.
In the lower house election, which was held on December 14 just after the Okinawa gubernatorial election, candidates, who opposed the Henoko relocation and cooperated to elect the new governor, won in all four electoral districts. In particular, Toshinobu Nakasato, a former advisor to the Liberal Democratic Party Chapter, ran as an independent in District No. 4. He opposed the Henoko relocation and gained prominence by defeating incumbent Kosaburo Nishime.
Ruling Party Also Achieves Majority in Prefectural Assembly
Governor Takeshi Onaga, who opposed construction of a new base at Henoko in Nago City, came into the limelight in the prefecture gubernatorial election in November 2014, reversing the ruling and opposition party composition in the Prefectural Assembly which had lasted for 16 years. The five factions of the Onaga administration ruling coalition, which opposes the new base, took control as the majority. Immediately after inauguration of the Onaga administration in December of last year, the five ruling party factions put forth a resolution on the 24th of the same month calling on both the United States and Japanese governments to forego construction of the new base at Henoko in Nago City. The stance taken by the Prefectural Assembly, which approved the measure by majority vote, has boosted efforts to prevent construction of the new base.
Of the 47 seats excluding the chair, the ruling party holds 24 and the opposition party 14 while politically neutral members maintain 8 seats, a make-up which gives the ruling party a comfortable majority. The ruling party is comprised of the Social Democratic Party & Goken Network (8), Kenmin Net (7), Japanese Communist Party (4), Social Mass Party (2) and Umanchu-no-Kai (2), and Katsuhiro Yoshida, who has declared his support for the ruling party while remaining a neutral Koumei Kenmin.
The ruling party factions set up a policy council in February of this year. With an eye on the national government's efforts to initiate land reclamation work at Henoko this summer, the policy council has worked to formulate a proposed ordinance which would impose restraints on deliveries of soil from outside the prefecture and are planning to submit the bill to the assembly's regular meeting in June.
Ruling party prefectural assembly members and others have held rallies of several thousand people every month since February. They are also taking the lead in organizing the Prefectural Residents Rally on May 17. After the rally, they will coordinate with prefectural politics to prevent the relocation of Futenma to Henoko, including giving consideration to petitioning Tokyo and visiting the United States.
[Okinawa Crying Out]
Governor Onaga's has a 72%public approval rating
More than 70% of prefectural residents have a favorable assessment of the stance taken by Governor Takeshi Onaga when he insisted "I will fully use any and all possible means to stop" the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko in Nago City."
A joint poll conducted by the Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Broadcasting Company on April 18th and 19th showed that the percentage of people who have a "favorable assessment" of the governor's position reached 72.1%. What clearly stood out was that a broad swath of prefectural residents is sympathetic to the governor's message. The percentage of respondents who are not "favorable" to the governor's petition was 21.7%.
As for approval or disapproval of the Futenman relocation to Henoko, those "opposed" accounted for the majority with 65.3%, and those "in favor" were limited to just 27.9%.
When asked what would be a desirable solution for realizing the return of MCAS Futenma, the highest percentage was for "unconditional closure and removal" at 32.4%, followed by "relocation to a site outside Japan" at 25.6%, "construction of a new base at Henoko, Nago City" at 18.7%, and "relocation to a site outside Okinawa Prefecture" at 18.3%.
National Polls Show Understandingfor Okinawa,Question National Government
Doubts are staring to emerge nationwide about the national government's position of insisting on relocating MCAS Futenma to Henoko. One after another, recent public opinion surveys by leading national newspapers have shown that opposition to the Henoko relocation is the majority view.
In an Asahi Shimbun survey (April 18 and 19), 30 percent said they were in favor of the relocation to Henoko versus 41 percent against, a margin of 11 points. A Mainichi Shimbun survey (same dates as the Asahi survey) showed that a 53% majority was opposed to national government's handling of the issue. This was roughly 11 percentage points higher than the 36% who approved.
A Nikkei Shimbun survey (April 17~19) found that nearly half of respondents thought the Futenma relocation plan "should be reconsidered," surpassing by 11 percentage points the 36% who answered that the "relocation should proceed as planned."
In Sankei Shimbun survey (April 25 & 26) which was clearly promoting the relocation of Futenma to Henoko, the percentage of respondents in "favor" was only 39.9%, which was eclipsed by the 44.7% who "oppose" the move.
In a Kyodo News survey (April 29 & 30), 45.6% did not have a "favorable assessment" of the national government's policy, a higher percentage than the 40.1% who did.
At a press conference after Governor Takeshi Onaga's talks with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani on the 9th, the Governor discussed this reaction demonstrated in the series of public opinion polls, stating, "My feeling is that opinion against construction of the new base has surged by about 10 points on average." He indicated his expectation that "Although there is indifference and a lack of understanding in mainland Japan, people will continue to become more and more concerned about this issue."
Election results show opposition to Henoko base
As the Government of Japan began drilling surveying in 2014 with the sights set toward building a new facility at Henoko, within Okinawa Futenma Air Station's replacement facility became the issue at hand. Those candidates for mayor of Nago City, governor of Okinawa Prefecture, and Okinawa representative members in the House of Representatives who opposed Henoko relocation were elected. Popular will opposing relocation has reached this high level, where citizens' votes clearly show that the intention of the people is in opposition to relocation within the prefecture.
In the January 2014 Nago mayoral election, the candidate opposing relocation to Henoko, Susumu Inamine, won against a relocation-supporting newcomer by a margin of 4155 votes, with a total of 19,839 votes. In September of that year, out of 27 seats on Nago City Council, 16 candidates opposing relocation to Henoko were elected.
Popular will opposing relocation to Henoko is clearly shown through the Nago mayoral election of Inamine in 2010 and 2014, and by the Nago City Council elections of the same years.
In the November 2014 gubernatorial election, the candidate calling for opposition to relocation, Takeshi Onaga, won against the governor at the time supporting relocation, Hirokazu Nakaima, by a margin of 99,744 votes, with 360,820 votes overall. Onaga's polled votes outstripped Nakaima's in Ginowan City and Nago City, the current location of Futenma Air Station and the city containing the relocation site, respectively.
In the House of Representatives election of December 2014, all 4 winning candidates for Okinawa's representative seats were opposed Henoko relocation.
Okinawan unite to rouse public opinion
The Shima Gurumi Association is leading a movement aiming to prevent new U.S. base construction in Henoko. In July 2014, members of the political and business establishment, labor and citizen organizations, and intellectuals, set up the association. In January 2013, all the mayors of the municipalities in Okinawa, assembly heads, and prefectural council members signed a petition requesting that the U.S. and Japanese governments rescind the deployment of the Osprey aircraft and abandon the idea of relocating the facilities at Futenma Air Station somewhere within the prefecture. The petition was handed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The association seeks to remove the structural discrimination against Okinawa, which is symbolized by the excessive burden of hosting the bulk of Japan's U.S. bases, by realizing the demands of the petition.
The association mainly plays the role of working on international community awareness as well as domestic public opinion. It has planned Okinawa Govenor Takeshi Onaga's speech at the United Nations. The association also aims to galvanize public opinion on the base issues by sending lecturers to various parts of Japan, including Tokyo.
It tries to unite Okinawan people by setting up branches in the municipalities of Okinawa. Each branch runs buses and brings people to the Camp Schwab gate to join the sit-in there. The association is supported by various people because of its bipartisan nature.
Inauguration of Shima Gurumi Association at Ginowan Civic Hall on July 27, 2014.
"Human chain" protests calling for base removal
In Okinawa, anti-war sentiment and base withdrawal movements have continued since Okinawa's reversion to Japan. With citizens' groups and workers' groups at their heart, protests involving people holding hands to encircle bases such as Kadena Air Base and Futenma Air Station have been carried out.
The first human chain protest in Okinawa took place at Kadena Air Base in 1987. Between 2000, when a human-chain protest was organized to coincide with the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, and 2007, Kadena was encircled 4 times. Futenma Air Station was encircled 5 times between 1995 and 2010.
Citizens have made their peaceful sentiment and wish for base reduction and withdrawal clear by bringing their families along, linking hands, and crowding around chain-link fenced military bases.
The first human-chain protest in Okinawa was held on June 21, 1987, with protestors linking hands around Kadena Air Base.
On July 20, 2000, human-chain protest participants held hands and surrounded Kadena Air Base. The timing coincided with the Okinawa Summit.
Over 400 million yen raised by the Henoko Fund
A new fund was established to prevent the construction of a new U.S. base in Henoko, Nago in April 2015. The fund is receiving donations from people nationwide. As of September 2, donations to the Henoko Fund amounted to 435,000,000 yen from over 58,000 donors.
Members of the political and business establishment in Okinawa, Masaru Sato, writer and former chief analyst at Foreign Ministry, and Fumiko Sugawara (the widow of late actor Bunta Sugawara), Okinawan photojournalist Bunyo Ishikawa, and internationally acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, have become joint representatives of the fund.
The fund is working on putting advertisements protesting the new base construction in regional newspapers and major newspapers of Japan.
A press conference for the establishment of the Henoko Fund, which Okinawa Governor Onaga attended, in Naha on April 9 2015.