Photo/IllutrationOkinawa Governor-elect Denny Tamaki reads a local newspaper in Naha on the morning of Oct. 1, the day after he won the gubernatorial election. (Jun Kaneko)

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NAHA--Okinawa Governor-elect Denny Tamaki said the day after his victory that he will “not allow” the central government’s plan for a U.S. base to be built in the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture.

According to Tamaki, he won because a large number of Okinawans want him to continue his late predecessor’s work in opposing the project to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, also in the prefecture, to Henoko.

“Voters hoped that I would take over from Governor Takeshi Onaga, who was determined to do anything to block the construction of a new base in Henoko,” Tamaki told reporters outside his house here Oct. 1.

Tamaki, 58, garnered 396,632 votes in the election, a record for the Okinawa governor poll, and about 80,000 more votes than his government-backed rival, Atsushi Sakima.

“A sense of loss felt by many Okinawans after Onaga’s death and their desire not to waste what he had achieved prompted them to go out and vote,” he said.

“Voters are also highly interested in the issues of the economy, employment, education and welfare, and they are supportive of policies in those areas I laid out during the campaign.”

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun and other media later that day, Tamaki said many voters cast their ballots for him partly because they were dismayed by the central government’s attempts to keep the relocation issue from drawing attention during the campaign.

Bigwigs from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party descended on the prefecture to promise economic assistance if Sakima won.

“They came to Okinawa repeatedly to apply pressure on one hand and say something feel-good on the other,” Tamaki said. “But they kept the Henoko issue, the central question of the election, out of the public discussion, which led many Okinawans to feel they were being denigrated by those politicians.”

Tamaki reiterated his resolve to oppose the relocation project.

“I will not allow the new base to be built in Henoko,” he said. “I will also call on the Japanese and U.S. governments to close the Futenma base at an early date and return the land to Japan.”

In Tokyo the same day, Abe said to reporters, “The government is taking the result seriously, and will continue with efforts to promote Okinawa’s economy and ease the burden of hosting U.S. bases.”

The southernmost prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of the nation’s land mass, but is home to about 70 percent of its U.S. bases.

However, Abe would not discuss how the U.S. base construction project would proceed from this point.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government’s policy toward Futenma’s relocation remains unchanged despite the election result.

“We are aiming to achieve the relocation to Henoko and the early return of land for the Futenma base,” he said.

Suga also indicated that he will meet with the new governor.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the successive victories of Onaga and Tamaki in the gubernatorial elections clearly showed what the government should do.

“It is the government’s duty to review the construction of a new base in Henoko,” he said.