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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 January 16 - 22  > Citizens of Okinawa's 5 cities abstaining from Henoko vote demand equal opportunity to vote on the referendum
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2019 January 16 - 22 [POLITICS]

Citizens of Okinawa's 5 cities abstaining from Henoko vote demand equal opportunity to vote on the referendum

January 16 & 17, 2019

Citizens of Okinawa's five cities where a prefectural referendum (Feb. 24) on the Henoko landfill project will not take place have risen up, crying, "We pay prefectural taxes, so we should also be eligible to vote!"

In protest against Ishigaki City Mayor Nakayama Yoshitaka's decision to not join the prefectural-wide referendum, a citizens' rally took place in front of the city hall on January 14. Co-leader of the rally Jiroku Masataka said, "The referendum is very important from the perspective of local autonomy and of a democracy that ensures the right for each one of us to express our will. In regard to this point, the city's refusal to participate in the referendum is depriving us, Ishigaki residents, of our right to vote."

On January 15, outside the Miyakojima City government office building, demonstrators staged a sit-in to protest against Mayor Shimoji Toshihiko's "won't join" decision, demanding the city's participation in the referendum. The sit-in will take place every day until January 18 for about one hour during lunchtime, according to a group of local residents. Okuhira Kazuo, a representative of the group said, "I think it's good for us to share and discuss our opinions: Some may vote 'no' while some others may vote 'yes', cast blank votes, or abstain from voting. In any case, voting is our minimal right in a democratic society. Why is it that the mayor is depriving city residents of this right?"

A citizens' association in Uruma City visited the city government office on January 15, hoping that Mayor Shimabuku Toshio will change his mind and decide to take part in the prefectural referendum.

The head of an Okinawan organization supportive of the referendum, Motoyama Jinshiro whose residence is in Ginowan City, started a hunger strike on January 15 in front of the city government office building, demanding the five cities' participation in the ballot. Motoyama said, "I can't understand why a person who was elected into office is now hindering voters from voting. This hunger strike is a last resort for me." In Ginowan City where the U.S. Futenma air base is located, a signature-collection drive has begun pressing Mayor Matsukawa Masanori to rethink his refusal to join the referendum.

In Okinawa City, seeking to push the city mayor to reverse his decision to not take part in the prefecture-wide referendum over the Henoko landfill for the construction of a new U.S. base, a rally took place on January 15.

The rally was called for by a civil organization working to have all municipalities in Okinawa take part in the referendum. Rally participants adopted a resolution protesting against Mayor Kuwae Sachio and urged the mayor to fulfill his responsibility to guarantee citizens’ right to vote and the right to political participation.

The civil group’s co-leader, Takara Tetsumi (constitutional law professor at Ryukyu University), said, “We need to make efforts to increase public support for our protest against the infringement of the voting right by the mayor.”

Japanese Communist Party member of the prefectural assembly Kayo Sogi, who lives in Okinawa City, along with a wide range of speakers appeared on the stage to express his determination to gain the city’s participation in the referendum.

Past related articles:
> LDP Dietmember teaches LDP municipal assemblypersons in Okinawa how to block Henoko referendum [ January 14 & 15, 2019]
> Okinawa governor requests Miyakojima mayor to rethink his refusal to participate in Henoko referendum [ January 10, 2019]
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