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CHATAN, Okinawa — Two candidates opposed to the U.S. bases on Okinawa were big winners in Sunday’s election to Japan’s House of Councilors.

Keiko Itokazu, 56, vice chairman of the Okinawa chapter of the Social Mass Party, and Shokichi Kina, 56, a musician and member of the Democratic Party, both won seats in the upper house of Japan’s Diet, similar to the U.S. Senate.

In a landslide, Itokazu defeated a candidate the two ruling parties supported. She garnered 316,148 votes, 95,345 more than Masatoshi Onaga, the candidate supported by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito Party.

Kina was elected in his first try for public office. The popular singer and peace activist said his goal is to see Okinawa become an independent United Nations protectorate. He won a “proportional” seat after the Democratic Party grabbed 50 of the 121 contested seats.

Proportional seats are at-large seats awarded according to the percentage of the popular vote a party captures. Of the contests, 73 seats were prefectural seats and 48 were for the nationwide proportional seats.

Kina won 129,208 votes, making him the party’s 10th-highest vote-getter.

“I want to fill a gap [that] exists between Okinawa and the mainland that stems from the past history,” said Kina, who banked on his celebrity status. “Turn all the military bases into flower gardens.”

He pledged to “put my effort into bringing down” the adminstration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and into changing “the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a Japan-U.S. Friendship Treaty.”

Itokazu said her election was an endorsement for her campaign to cancel plans to build a new Marine air station in the waters off northeast Okinawa, to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. She also wants to close the Futenma base and move Marine air operations off Okinawa.

“Throughout the campaign I heard the voices of Okinawans saying a loud ‘no’ to the Koizumi administration,” she said Sunday. “The issues in this election were very clear, especially the opposition to construction of the new military base.”

Although Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party took a beating, falling short of its goal of winning more than 51 seats — it won 49 — Koizumi is expected to remain in office because the LDP retained a majority of the seats not up for election.

Also, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the New Komeito party, won 11 seats. All told, the two-party ruling coalition has 139 seats of the 242-seat upper house.


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