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2012年2月 3日 (金)

社説:沖縄防衛局長 選挙介入が常態なのか

(Mainichi Japan) February 2, 2012
Editorial: Gov't intervention in Okinawa election unacceptable
社説:沖縄防衛局長 選挙介入が常態なのか

The chief of the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau was recently found to have held a "lecture" for bureau employees about the upcoming Feb. 12 Ginowan mayoral election. It emerged that the bureau had earlier made a list of voters pertaining to employees and their relatives living in the city, which houses the United States Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The actions of the bureau and its chief, Ro Manabe, constitute electoral intervention by the government, which is unacceptable.

The revelations came after a Japanese Communist Party legislator raised the issue in the Diet.

The ensuing survey by the Defense Ministry has disclosed that the Okinawa Defense Bureau compiled a list of its employees living in Ginowan as well as employees who have relatives in the city -- whose numbers totaled 80 -- at the instruction of Manabe.
Employees on the list were gathered for his lecture, in which he called on them to vote in the upcoming mayoral election.

During the lecture, Manabe reportedly introduced the profiles of those who were expected to throw their hats in the mayoral race and pointed out that the will of Ginowan residents is important as the city hosts the Futenma air base.

Although the Defense Ministry survey concluded that the local bureau chief did not "support any specific potential candidate," no record of the content of the lecture exists to back up the finding.

The Public Offices Election Law prohibits any election campaign that utilizes the position of a national public servant, while the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) Law strictly regulates political activities by SDF personnel, including civilian members.

The outcome of the Ginowan mayoral election will have a major impact on the planned relocation of the Futenma base to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture.

If a lecture is given about potential candidates shortly before the election, it is only natural for attendants to think that the lecture hints at endorsing a prospective candidate favoring the government's policy on the base issue -- even if no direct mention is made about supporting a specific person.

Okinawans have erupted in anger time and again over government blunders relating to the Futenma relocation issue.
These include inappropriate remarks by a former head of the Okinawa Defense Bureau and gaffes by former Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa in the Diet.

Manabe's words and actions only add fuel to the fire and are set to deepen Okinawans' distrust in the government and make it even harder to settle the base issue. The local bureau chief, as a matter of course, should be sacked.

It should be noted that Manabe had also given lectures ahead of two elections in Nago -- the Nago mayoral election in January 2010 and the Nago Municipal Assembly election in September that year -- both of which focused on whether the city would agree to hosting the functions of the Futenma base.

Manabe gave the lectures in his capacity as head of the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

The government should also investigate the timing and other details of these lectures.

When a referendum on whether to accept a plan to construct an offshore heliport in Nago in connection with the Futenma relocation was held in December 1997, employees of the Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau staged a de facto vote-gathering campaign by visiting voters door-to-door and distributing brochures -- drawing criticism from local residents.

If such interventions in elections and other events are found to have repeatedly taken place, they should be regarded as a structural problem.

Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka, who has supervision over such issues, has been blasted over his poor remarks. Regarding the frequency of U.S. military helicopter flights around the Futenma base, for example, he said, "There aren't so many (helicopters), are there?" He has also been targeted over repeated apologies and corrections during Diet sessions.

The opposition parties have questioned Tanaka's qualifications as defense minister.

The government faces a crucial test in discontinuing use of the Futenma base at its present location and removing the danger posed to residents in the vicinity.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should rise to the forefront and do his utmost to resolve the Futenma issue.


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