• Kyodo

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The mayor of one of Hokkaido’s major cities said Sunday he will step down in response to the alleged vote-collection violations of two members of the city’s government.

Kushiro Mayor Kensuke Watanuki, 56, submitted his resignation to the head of the city assembly in the morning. The legislature is expected to vote on the issue Wednesday.

The two senior officials were arrested last week for allegedly violating the Public Offices Election Law by collecting votes for a particular candidate.

One of the officials is deputy mayor Hidenobu Kakizaki, who was arrested for allegedly acting in favor of a candidate in the Oct. 20 mayoral race in the neighboring town of Kushiro.

The candidate had been proposing a merger of the town and city.

Watanuki has made the merger of the two municipalities a campaign pledge.

The mayor denied any involvement in the illegal action, but told a news conference: “I’m just feel very sorry for everything right now. I really wanted to promote the merger project, which is absolutely necessary in this area.”

“Stepping down is the best choice for me as mayor. The responsibility I have to take as the manager of the two executives involved in the wrongdoing is extremely large.”

An election to choose Watanuki’s successor will be planned within 50 days after the election administration committee is informed of the assembly’s approval of the mayor’s resignation.

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