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Cablegate: Okinawa Municipal Assembly Elections Bode Well For

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PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
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P 111216Z SEP 06
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STATE FOR EAP/J; SECDEF FOR ISP/J; USFJ FOR J5, J4

TAGS: MARR PINS JA
SUBJECT: OKINAWA MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS BODE WELL FOR
IMPLEMENTING REALIGNMENT AGREEMENTS


(SBU) Summary: The September 10 municipal assembly elections,
held in 26 Okinawan cities, towns and villages, showed some
positive trends for implementing the Okinawa-related portions of
the USG-GOJ Alliance Transformation and Realignment (ATARA)
report. Conservatives retained the majority and gained a seat
in the Nago City, the intended destination of a replacement
facility for Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma.
Conservatives retained the majority in Ginowan City, current
host to MCAS Futenma, and Okinawa City, the second-largest city
in the prefecture and co-host to Kadena Air Force Base, despite
small gains by anti-base reformists. End Summary.

(U) 428 candidates stood for 361 positions in 26 different
municipal assembly elections, all held on September 10. The two
Okinawan daily newspapers, the Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times,
provided extensive coverage of the results available from 25 of
the 26 municipalities. With just 18% more candidates than there
were seats, there were no large swings between conservative and
reformist numbers. Nevertheless, there were positive results in
three cities that are important to ATARA initiatives related to
Okinawa.

(SBU) Conservatives retained and added slightly to their
majority of seats in Nago City, host of Camp Schwab and the
planned location of the MCAS Futenma replacement facility (FRF).
Nago voters chose 16 conservatives, ten reformists and one
neutral candidate for their 27-member assembly. Both Okinawa
daily newspapers groused that conservative candidates refused to
focus on the FRF as an issue, so they never properly engaged the
reformist camp's explicit opposition. The Ryukyu Shimpo
acknowledged that the result was a vote of confidence in Mayor
Yoshikazu SHIMABUKURO, whose successful January 2006 mayoral
campaign emphasized economic development and improving social
services.

(U) The candidate receiving the most votes in Nago was Yohei
KISHIMOTO, eldest son of the late Tateo KISHIMOTO, the former
Nago City Mayor best known for having accepted the Special
Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) plan to relocate MCAS Futenma
to Nago City, and who later anointed current Mayor Shimabukuro
as his conservative successor. Another new member, Zenko
NAKAMURA, leads a group opposed to construction of the FRF in
Nago, while former assembly member Yasuhiro MIYAGI, who led the
anti-base campaign during the 1997 Nago City referendum on the
SACO FRF plan, lost his seat.

(U) Ginowan City, current host of MCAS Futenma, elected three
more reformist assembly members than before, but left in place
the conservative majority, now 18 seats out of 28 total.
Okinawa City, the second-largest city in Okinawa and co-host of

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Kadena Air Force Base, added two reformists to its assembly, but
conservatives retained their majority, taking 18 of 30 seats.
Six women ran for and won Okinawa City assembly sheets, which
was proclaimed by the papers as a "women's wind" following
Mitsuko TOMON's April 2006 mayoral victory.

(SBU) Conclusion/Comment: The results in Nago City boded well
for implementing the FRF plan, and results in Ginowan City and
Okinawa City were only mildly negative. Municipal assemblies
are the Greek chorus of local politics, with no active role to
play but providing the mood music in which municipal
executives-and our military bases-operate. Conservatives having
a slightly stronger majority in the Nago City Assembly should
make it easier for the GOJ to coordinate with the city in
proceeding with the FRF. The Ginowan City and Okinawa City
assemblies remained majority conservative, and the small
reformist gains will offer their vocally anti-base mayors little
help when the city executives and the city legislatures disagree
on base issues. End comment/conclusion.
MAHER

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