Candidates opposing the planned relocation of a key U.S. military base in Okinawa maintained a majority in Sunday's local assembly election in Nago, where the replacement facility will be built.
The result could bode ill for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push for the long-stalled transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and also affect the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Sept. 30.
(Construcion site of a new U.S. base in Henoko, Nago)
Candidates opposed to the relocation of the base from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to a less populated coastal district in Nago won 15 seats in the 26-member assembly.
Among the 32 candidates, 17 were opposed to the base transfer and the other 15 were supportive or did not clarify their position.
Voter turnout was 65.04 percent, down 5.36 percentage points from the previous election in 2014 and the lowest on record since 1970, the local election board in Nago said.
The relocation plan will also be the most contentious issue in the upcoming gubernatorial election to fill the post left vacant by the recent death of Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who firmly confronted the central government over the plan and led efforts to reduce the U.S. military presence in Japan's southern island prefecture.
Following Onaga's instruction, the prefecture last month retracted its approval for landfill work at the relocation site, claiming illegality in the application process.