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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Futenma, economy to decide Okinawa election


Staff writer

GINOWAN, Okinawa Pref. — Okinawa voters will head to the polls Sunday to elect a new prefectural assembly, with economic autonomy, the U.S. Futenma air base's relocation and the looming deployment to the facility of controversial V-22 Osprey aircraft seen as the key issues.

Some 63 candidates are vying for 48 seats in the assembly, which is currently controlled by a coalition that officially opposes Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima and his allies in the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito because of their initial support for keeping the Futenma base on Okinawa Island.

Although Nakaima and the two opposition parties' prefectural chapters have shifted their stance and are now fighting the current relocation plan, media polls last week showed the LDP and New Komeito candidates, as well as others aligned with the governor, face an uphill battle to recapture a majority.

While the Futenma relocation has been mired in a long-running dispute between Okinawa and the central government, the MV-22 deployment became a hot-button issue more recently.

Strong safety concerns have been voiced about the tilt-rotor aircraft, originally slated for deployment to Futenma next month but more likely to arrive in August.

A dozen Ospreys are scheduled to be deployed to Futenma by year's end, but the exact timing is expected to be announced after Sunday's election.

Other major issues include executing a new 10-year development plan for Okinawa that was recently approved by the central government.



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The Japan Times

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