Photo/IllutrationAn aerial photo of land reclamation work in progress on the coast of the U.S. Marines’ Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nako, Okinawa Prefecture, on Jan. 13 (Jun Kaneko)

NAHA--All factions of the Okinawa prefectural assembly agreed Jan. 24 to adopt a multiple-choice ballot for a referendum on the relocation of a U.S. military base within the prefecture.

The choices on the ballot will be "Support" "Oppose" and "No opinion either way."

Mayors of five municipalities that had opted out of a referendum have also taken a positive stance toward the three-choice ballot idea.

As a result, all municipalities in Okinawa are expected to participate in the referendum on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture.

Yonekichi Shinzato, chairman of the prefectural assembly, explained the three-choice ballot referendum the same day, with opposition parties Komeito and Nippon Ishin as well as leading factions expressing agreement over it.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party also proposed another three-choice ballot including the answers "Unavoidable," "Oppose," and "I can't say either way." However, other factions didn’t agree with the party's proposal, and the LDP accepted the chairman’s original proposal.

An extraordinary assembly session will be held Jan. 29 and a revised ordinance will be passed.

The mayors of Okinawa city, Uruma, Ginowan, Miyakojima and Ishigaki, who take a conservative stance and thus distance themselves from Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, had announced that they would not participate in the vote because a two-choice ballot would not reflect public opinion. Under such a circumstance, 30 percent of the Okinawa voters would not be able to vote on the matter.

However, on Jan. 24, the Okinawa city, Urima and Ginowan mayors expressed their intention to join the vote if the prefectural assembly unanimously passed the three-choice ballot system.

In response to the high possibility of an all-Okinawa referendum, Tamaki said Jan. 25 to reporters at the prefectural office, “I'm pleased that the prefectural assembly members worked hard to reach an agreement.”

The referendum will be announced Feb. 14, with the vote scheduled for Feb. 24.

While the vote date remains the same, preparation work has been delayed at the five cities. Deputy Governor Kiichiro Jahana said on Jan. 25 that arrangements will be made to hold voting in those cities one or two weeks later on either March 3 or 10.

Jahana added that it is desirable that residents of other municipalities vote as scheduled, but that the ballots will not be counted until the postponed votes have been held.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Yamashita and Kazuyuki Ito.)