Photo/IllutrationDenny Tamaki, a former Lower House member of the Liberal Party, celebrates his victory in the Okinawa gubernatorial election in Naha on Sept. 30. (Masaru Komiyaji)

NAHA—A candidate opposed to the relocation of a U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture won the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Sept. 30.

Denny Tamaki, 58, a former Lower House member of the Liberal Party, defeated three other candidates, including former Ginowan mayor Atsushi Sakima, 54, who was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and other smaller parties.

The gubernatorial election, originally scheduled for late autumn, was moved up after Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga died of cancer in August.

Onaga strongly clashed with the Abe administration in opposing the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Sept. 30 election focused on whether voters sought to continue supporting Onaga’s hard-line stance or wanted change.

As Onaga’s successor, Tamaki was fielded by the “All Okinawa” movement, a broad coalition of the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, labor unions and some company operators.

Members of Onaga’s family also gave speeches in support of Tamaki. They emphasized that the concentration of U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture is unreasonable.

Leaders of political parties that supported Tamaki also visited Okinawa. They included Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and Ichiro Ozawa, chief of the Liberal Party.

However, they refrained from appearing with Tamaki so that he could also win support from voters who do not back any particular political party.

Meanwhile, Sakima called for improvement in relations with the Abe administration under the slogan, “From confrontation to dialogue.”

However, he did not take a stand on the relocation of the air station to Henoko, giving consideration to voters opposed to the relocation.

During the campaign, Sakima vowed to take measures to support people’s daily lives and promote economic development.

Officials of the Abe administration and the LDP, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, visited Okinawa Prefecture to support Sakima.

The central government planned to start dumping earth and sand into a sea area off Henoko as early as August this year for land reclamation. In late August, however, the Okinawa prefectural government retracted approval for the land reclamation work. Since then, the work has been suspended.

The central government plans to take legal action to counter the prefecture's retraction. If Okinawa's action is invalidated, the government will start land reclamation, which may cause a strong backlash among the Okinawan public.