Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto formally submitted his resignation Friday to the head of the municipal assembly, setting the stage for a snap election in mid or late March.
“I would like to seek a fresh mandate from voters to achieve a breakthrough” in the plan to merge the Osaka Prefectural and Municipal governments into a single metropolitan government along the lines of Tokyo, he said.
Hashimoto wants his resignation to take effect Feb. 15.
But New Komeito, which controls the assembly along with Hashimoto’s Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) group, indicated Thursday that it will jump ship and join the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan and Japanese Communist Party in a vote next week to reject the resignation.
This will mean that Hashimoto’s last day in office will instead be Feb. 27, or 20 days after the submission of his intent to resign.
The election is expected to be held March 16 or 23.
Who Hashimoto might run against was still unclear as of Friday afternoon.
New Komeito, the LDP and the DPJ have all indicated they will not field candidates in what they see as a waste of time and taxpayer money. While the JCP indicated earlier this week it would challenge Hashimoto, the party was still discussing the matter Friday.
Hashimoto is resigning out of anger over a joint prefectural and municipal committee looking to merge the city’s current 24 wards into five to seven large districts. The move is part of a larger plan to abolish the current city and prefectural bureaucratic system and rearrange the entire structure into one political entity.
The effort is facing opposition from LDP, DPJ and JCP members as well as from the mayor of Sakai, another city that would become a part of the “One Osaka” political entity.
If re-elected, Hashimoto said Friday, he would expel LDP, DPJ and JCP members from the joint committee.
When he swept to power in November 2011, Hashimoto promised voters an integration schedule that included a detailed referendum proposal by this summer, for a referendum to take place by this autumn, and for the integration to take effect in April 2015.
But after New Komeito joined the opposition to vote down a proposal at the end of January to choose one of four integration plans on the table, Hashimoto decided to run again, hoping his personal popularity would pressure the assembly into sticking to his timetable.
In Kyoto, where about 550 senior corporate leaders from the Kansai region gathered Friday for a two-day seminar, Hashimoto’s intention to call a snap election received mixed reviews.