Former Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, 64, who opposes the government's plan to relocate the US Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station within the prefecture, won the Okinawa gubernatorial election on Sunday.
Onaga's victory is certain to deal a major blow to the government, which plans to relocate the functions of the air station from Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture.
Onaga defeated incumbent Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, 75, a proponent of the relocation plan who has approved the government's request to reclaim the coastal areas of the Henoko district in Nago, a necessary operation to relocate the air station.
It was the first prefecture-wide election since Nakaima approved the reclamation request late last year.
The race was also contested by Mikio Shimoji, 53, a former minister for postal privatization, and Shokichi Kina, 66, a former House of Councillors member. Shimoji called for holding a prefecture-wide referendum on the relocation, while Kina demanded that Nakaima's approval be scrapped.
Onaga was supported by some conservative members of the Naha city assembly as well as opposition parties such as the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.