Friday, April 28, 2017

Okinawa leader seeks public vote on U.S. base relocation plan

NAHA--Supporters of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga are seeking a referendum to show that voters overwhelmingly oppose the relocation of a U.S. military base within the prefecture.
Close aides to the governor in early April asked labor union executives to work toward a referendum, according to a high-ranking prefectural government official.
Onaga has been a staunch opponent of the central government's plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefecture's Ginowan to the Henoko district in Nago and has threatened to revoke approval for land reclamation work.
The All Okinawa Council (Association for stopping the construction of new Henoko Base), which consists of pro-Onaga companies, political parties, labor unions and other entities, held an executive meeting in Naha on April 11 on the referendum plan, but did not reach a conclusion.
“The plan is a double-edged sword," an All Okinawa official said. "It is beneficial but very risky at the same time.”
The council would have to collect a minimum of one-50th of voters' signatures to submit a proposal to the governor asking the prefectural assembly to call a referendum.
If the assembly approves the ordinance, a referendum will be held.
However, to get the issue to the ballot is difficult because a majority of city mayors in the prefecture support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and oppose Onaga's efforts, and are not likely to be cooperative.

Their cooperation must be gained to set up polling stations, count ballots and conduct other referendum functions.
Several hundreds of millions of yen would also be required to fund the effort, and much time is needed to conduct some vital tasks, including publicizing the referendum. Therefore, even if realized, a public vote couldn't be conducted until autumn at the earliest.
Moreover, the result of a referendum would not be legally binding and is unlikely to make the Abe administration change its stance on relocating the base within the prefecture.

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