The Japanese on the southern Island of Okinawa have re-elected incumbent governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who wants an end to the American military presence.
Nakaima, who wants the US base off Okinawa altogether, beat his opponent who agreed to relocate the base to a less crowded area on the island.
In May, Tokyo and Washington agreed to implement a 2006 plan to relocate the Futenma airbase to a less crowded area in Okinawa.
The move infuriated local residents, who view the base as a source of noise, pollution and serious crime –including rape.
Futenma hosts about half the US troops in Japan and the row over this airbase has been giving new headaches to Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
The development comes after his Democratic Party lost an upper house election in August.
Kan’s predecessor Yukio Hatoyama had to resign after he failed to keep his election campaign promise to remove the base off Okinawa.
Futenma has provoked a wave of anger in the country, with the nation demanding a complete removal of the airbase, which has been under US command since the end of World War II, off Okinawa.
Japanese people have been urging their government to remove US military installations from the country altogether.
Tens of thousands of people have held several rallies against the American military engagement in the country over the past months.