• Kyodo

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The election management committee of the town of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, announced Wednesday that the number of signatories to a petition calling for the mayor’s resignation has met the required figure.

The mayor, Wasaburo Ono, has come under severe criticism from many local residents over his decision to tear down the historic Toyosato Elementary School and build a new one in its location that can better withstand earthquakes, despite court injunctions calling for a halt to demolition work. A group of residents launched the movement to have him resign.

The town has since agreed to keep the current main building intact, while constructing a new building nearby.

If it is to be valid, 33 percent of eligible voters must sign a petition that demands the removal of a head of a local government. Town election officials said that 1,892 valid signatures had been collected, exceeding the required figure of 1,886.

If the residents formally submit their petition and it is accepted, a referendum on whether to have the mayor step down must be held within 60 days.

Ono told a news conference that he is willing to accept any outcome that is the will of the people. At the same time, he said he would continue with the current plan to build a new structure as long as he is in office.

Representatives of the residents’ group that collected the signatures said that they will formally submit the petition after it is returned to them from the election committee.

“We’ve cleared one hurdle, and it will serve as a deterrent against the rogue mayor,” group leader Hiroshi Ito said.

According to the committee, the list of signatures was submitted by the group on Dec. 2. Screening of the list confirmed that there were 1,907 valid signatures, but the committee had continued to check the list as it received 177 objections when the list was up for public viewing and comment.

Also Wednesday, the prefectural education board accepted the resignation of Hitoshi Kitasaka, the school principal. Kitasaka had said he wanted to step down to take responsibility for the confusion over the demolition plan. For the time being, Vice Principal Kiyoshi Tsutsumi will take charge until a formal successor is selected, board officials said.

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