The Nago mayoral election, in which the anti-base candidate lost, reveals “Okinawa’s choices and reasons | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Nago mayoral election, in which the anti-base candidate lost, reveals “Okinawa’s choices and reasons

An urgent report on "Okinawa" as witnessed by journalist Daisuke Tsuda

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<On January 23, there was a mayoral election in Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture. The city, with a population of 64,000, is home to the construction site of the new Henoko base. Okinawa is in an “election year” as it is the 50th anniversary of the return of Okinawa to Japan and a gubernatorial election is scheduled for the fall. Journalist Daisuke Tsuda covered the high-profile election to determine the first “will of the people. What did Mr. Tsuda, who has been covering Okinawa for a long time, see there on the day the vote was cast?

The turnout was the lowest ever (68.32%), partly due to the heavy wind and rain that started in the morning. The rain turned into another stormy downpour in the evening. A large number of reporters visited Kishimoto’s campaign headquarters, and coverage continued until late at night.

Once again, the election brought into sharp relief the reality of Nago City, which is divided by money and power.

Yohei Kishimoto, a candidate who campaigned against the base, was defeated in the Nago mayoral election held in Okinawa Prefecture on January 23. Susumu Inamine, chairman of Kishimoto’s supporters’ group and mayor of Nago from 2010 to 2018, expressed his disappointment at the defeat.

Inamine’s two key words, “money power” and “power,” are key to deciphering the confrontation between Okinawa Prefecture and the national government over the construction of the new Henoko base that has emerged since 2014.

Circumstances in which “money power” and “power” cannot be resisted

First, let’s look at “money power. A major point of contention in this mayoral election was the evaluation of the “three free childcare support measures” promoted by the incumbent candidate, Taketoyo Toguchi. Since becoming mayor in 2018, candidate Toguchi has made childcare, school lunches, and medical expenses for children up to high school graduation free. The “U.S. military realignment subsidy” was used to finance this.

Established by the “Act on Special Measures for Smooth Implementation of Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan” promulgated in 2007, the U.S. Forces Realignment Grants are provided by the government to municipalities affected by the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan for “projects that contribute to the improvement of public facilities, the convenience of residents’ lives, and the promotion of industry.

Nago City, the relocation site of the Futenma Air Station, had been receiving this subsidy since fiscal 2007, but in 2010, when Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago City, who opposed the relocation, was elected, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration at the time suspended the subsidy, saying that the realignment of U.S. forces would not proceed under the current situation of Nago City. Nago’s finances became strained, and of the 12 projects that were to be implemented with the grant, two were suspended and one had to be cancelled.

Later, when the LDP government took over, the “suspension of grant” continued.

Then, in 2018, when Watuguchi, a candidate recommended by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, defeated incumbent Mayor Inamine to become mayor, the grant was resumed on the grounds that he had “not declared his opposition to Henoko. Since then, Nago has received an annual subsidy of 1.49 billion yen, and in fiscal 2020, about half of that amount, or 710 million yen, will be used for the “three free” projects.

In other words, this subsidy is a system that allows the government to unilaterally decide whether or not to grant it. This makes it difficult to make choices that will lead to the “suspension of subsidies” once the subsidies are invested in projects to improve the lives of citizens.

The Three Power Source Law, enacted in 1974, aims to “seek understanding and cooperation for nuclear power generation” from residents and businesses in municipalities with nuclear power plant-related facilities and surrounding municipalities. As a result, the generous subsidies given to municipalities where nuclear power plants are located have distorted the finances of the municipalities and created a situation where the region has become dependent on nuclear power plants. The same scheme, backed by the power of money, can be seen in the Okinawa base issue.

Yohei Kishimoto appealed his youthfulness as a “49-year-old born after the reversion to mainland Japan” against Taketoyo Wataguchi, a candidate who has reached the age of 60, but his argument did not reach many of the younger generation.

This can be seen from the pre-election survey (*1) reported by Okinawa Television (OTV) for this mayoral election. According to the survey, 27.9% of the respondents chose “base issue” as the most important policy to vote for, 26.2% chose “economy and employment,” and 23.5% chose “child-rearing and education. This trend is even stronger when we look at the policies emphasized by each candidate.

While 39.2% of the respondents who said they would vote for Tomoochi placed importance on “economy and employment” and 33.8% on “child-rearing and education,” 63.2% of the respondents who said they would vote for Kishimoto placed importance on the “base issue,” 9.0% on “child-rearing and education,” and 8.0% on “economy and employment. In the exit polls conducted on the day of the election, Kishimoto lost to Wataguchi only among the “child-rearing generation” in their 20s and 30s.

The other key word, “power,” needs no further explanation: despite nearly a decade of prefectural residents’ opposition to the construction of the new Henoko base being demonstrated in the 2010 and 2014 Nago mayoral elections, the 2014 and 2018 Okinawa gubernatorial elections, and the 2019 Okinawa prefectural referendum, in December 2018 In December 2018, the then Abe administration began pouring sand and soil into Henoko.

Even in the lawsuit filed by Okinawa Prefecture against the government during the period of Governor Takeshi Onaga’s administration to stop the relocation, the government made claims that twisted the main purpose of the Administrative Appeal Law, and the judiciary, which is supposed to uphold the law, followed suit. The lawsuits between the prefectural government and the national government over the Henoko relocation have been decided a total of nine times, including by the Supreme Court, but in each case, the prefectural government has either lost, settled, or withdrawn the lawsuit. It must be said that the prefectural government’s chances of winning the case are slim to none.

The beach overlooking the U.S. military camp Schwab. In the sea through the fence, you can see wave dissipating blocks and some of the sediment that was put in, which did not exist until December 2018.

This composition is not limited to the Nago mayoral election. In the Nanjo mayoral election held on the same day as the Nago mayoral election, the incumbent candidate Nagatoshi Zukeran, supported by the “All Okinawa” group led by Governor Denny Tamaki and opposed to the construction of the new Henoko base, was defeated, and former Nanjo mayor Keishun Koza, recommended by the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito, returned to the race. The former mayor of Nanjo, Koza Keishun, who was recommended by the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito, returned to the race.

Reasons for the Weakening of “All Okinawa

The “All-Okinawa” force, which used to be overwhelmingly strong in elections in the prefecture, has been losing more and more elections over the past few years. One of the main reasons for this is that a number of heavyweights from Okinawa’s business community have left the All-Okinawa group.

In the past, there was a person who established All-Okinawa as a framework to support former Governor Onaga and supported Governor Denny Tamaki as a patronage chairman. Morimasa Kureya, chairman of the Kinshu Group, a leading conglomerate in Okinawa Prefecture, resigned as chairman of the supporters’ association in September 2020 and announced his support for the LDP during the lower house election last fall.

There seems to be a “structure” in place that forced the central figure who launched the All Okinawa movement to leave. The Kanehide Group, one of the leading general contractors in the prefecture, says that since 2014, when it launched the All-Okinawa movement, it has been “unable to win orders for construction work related to the Ministry of Defense, and was unable to form joint ventures (JVs) with major general contractors even for work directly controlled by the central government for other ministries and agencies.

(*2) In other words, Okinawa has always been at the mercy of the combination of “money power” and “power”-the “incentives” and “coercion” of the state.

The Toguchi campaign has erected a large number of “double banners” with Shinjiro Koizumi, a member of the House of Representatives, throughout the city, showing the strength of their organization and financial power.

The “military offensive” may not have an immediate effect, but if it is prolonged, it will surely take away the strength and energy of the opponent.

Re-election of a mayor who has not made it clear whether he is for or against the base

The mayoral election is a symbol of division for the citizens of Nago, where money and power have always combined to intervene in the local community. The fact that the first mayor who did not make his position on the base “clear” was elected four years ago and re-elected this time seems to have a symbolic meaning.

The scene at the elementary school gymnasium used as a polling place in the evening after the morning rain had momentarily lifted. The schoolyard was muddy at dusk.

However, this raises tough questions for those of us living in the mainland. Why are issues that are important to all of us, such as security and reducing the burden of bases in Okinawa, reduced to a question of whether or not a community will accept a nuisance facility? By turning a blind eye to problems that are difficult to solve and not being actively involved in them, we may be able to avoid taking responsibility and avoid being directly blamed. However, this will result in low voter turnout and a “leave it to democracy,” where all political decisions are “chosen” and allowed to be made based on the amount of “money” and “power.

A piece of paper opposing the construction of a new base in Henoko that had been dumped on the street near the election headquarters.

What the Nago mayoral election is asking is what we should do and how we should live in a Japanese society where those with money and power can walk around with their own heads held high. Simply lamenting and analyzing the “divide” will not change anything. We need to correctly recognize the sources of money and power, and think concretely about how we can pierce them. The first step is to “know,” and with what meaning and what to choose.

I would like to take a careful look at the “composition” of this country as revealed by this election. The “Okinawa problem” is not only a problem of Okinawa, but also a problem of “ourselves” and a problem of “Japan”, which is easily swayed by “money power” and “power”.

(Titles omitted in the text)

On the day of the mayoral election, I walked around Nago City in heavy rain to cover the election. There were things I could not see unless I was there.

Daisuke Tsuda is a journalist, media activist, and editor-in-chief of the political information website Politas. He is the editor-in-chief of the political information website Politas. He is also the editor-in-chief of the political information website Politas.

1:2022 Nago mayoral election preliminary report OTV Live News it Internet special program

2: Ryukyu Shimpo (2021/09/15 )

  • Interview, writing, photography Daisuke Tsuda

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