Osaka rejects city reform plan

Osaka rejects city reform plan
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto holds a press conference at a hotel in Osaka late Sunday, after being informed of the local referendum’s results.

The people of Osaka have voted down plans to abolish the city government and convert Osaka into five special administrative wards in a local referendum held Sunday.

Votes against the so-called "Osaka-to" metropolis plan (See below) were cast by 705,585 people, topping the 694,844 votes cast in favour of the idea by a margin of just 0.8 percentage points. Voter turnout was 66.83 per cent.

The outcome brought to an end debate over the proposed reforms, which were championed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto for more than five years. Hashimoto is also the leader of the Osaka Ishin no Kai, a local political party that promoted the plan.

Hashimoto told reporters late Sunday night in Osaka of his intention to retire from politics. He said he had no plans to run in the next Osaka mayoral election, scheduled to be held by the end of this year.

The loss also dealt a blow to the political influence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had considered cooperating with Hashimoto over his policy goals, including amendments to the Constitution.

"I take this very seriously," Hashimoto said at the beginning of the press conference.

"I won't be working as a politician after my term expires."

The referendum was announced April 27 and held over a draft plan to create Osaka-to through an accord to establish the special wards. The draft plan aimed to convert the Osaka city government into a new administrative entity comprising the special wards in April 2017.

Supporting and opposing forces waged fierce campaign battles ahead of the referendum. Osaka Ishin no Kai promoted the plan, which was opposed by local units of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito and the Japanese Communist Party.

Eda to resign as JIP head

Kenji Eda, leader of the Japan Innovation Party, said early Monday he will resign as party head because of the many opposing votes in the local referendum over the Osaka-to plan.

The party's political momentum will likely suffer in the wake of Hashimoto's announcement to retire from politics.

"My party didn't support Mr. Hashimoto sufficiently, so he was forced to retire," Eda said.

The party's executive board members will meet on Tuesday at the earliest to discuss the resignations of its current executive members as well as the possibility of a leadership election.

Some within the party have called for the next leader to be Secretary General Yorihisa Matsuno.

Osaka-to plan

Aimed to reform local governments by dissolving Osaka city into an entity comprising five special wards. Administrative work for affairs concerning the whole of Osaka Prefecture would have been transferred from the city government to the prefectural government.

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