Stumping for Sakai mayor race begins

Kyodo

Official campaigning kicked off Sunday for the mayoral election in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, with the incumbent and his sole challenger filing their candidacies.

Incumbent Mayor Osami Takeyama, 63, is pitted against former Sakai Assemblyman Katsutoshi Nishibayashi, 43, in the Sept. 29 race.

Takeyama, an independent, is endorsed by the Democratic Party of Japan and backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, while Nishibayashi is backed by Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

The key issue in the election is whether to integrate Osaka Prefecture and major cities in the prefecture, a key political goal of Osaka Mayor and Ishin co-leader Toru Hashimoto.

Takeyama was elected mayor for the first time four years ago with the backing of Hashimoto, who was then the governor of Osaka Prefecture, but later came to confront Hashimoto over the integration plan, making it clear the city would not join the merger.

Nippon Ishin no Kai sees the mayoral election as a key test of its public support.