News Referendum in danger of losing momentum as mayors opt out

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NAHA--A referendum set for February that is being pitched as a chance to show a prefecture-wide stance on a U.S. military base project appears to be in danger of losing its steam.
Tamaki, who was only elected in September, pressed municipalities across the southernmost prefecture to participate in the Feb. 24 referendum, saying it was their “obligation” to allow residents to vote on an issue that has galvanized Okinawa.
On Dec. 25, Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsugawa announced the decision to opt out of the referendum so as to honor the city assembly’s position.
Ginowan’s decision dealt a major blow to Tamaki's campaign and in part reflects a concern that the referendum could put the city in the position of having to host the Futenma facility for decades to come.
Mayors can override the assembly’s rejection and appropriate the cost for their portion of the referendum at their discretion.
The prefectural government can urge local authorities to reconsider their positions, but it has no authority to override their decisions.
“Okinawans should not be deprived of the opportunity to vote in the referendum, based on where they live,” Tamaki said.
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