Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura will begin collecting signatures Aug. 27 in a bold move to recall the municipal assembly.
The mayor’s support group filed a petition Tuesday with the city’s election management committee to begin the recall process.
Kawamura, who won in a landslide in the mayoral race in April 2009 with a record 510,000 votes, pledged during the campaign to cut the municipal tax by 10 percent and halve the assembly.
The mayor said some assembly members who owe their seats to their families’ political connections are preventing him from fulfilling his promises, but he faces fierce opposition from those who accuse him of behaving like a tyrant.
“I won’t be able to keep my promises I made with the citizens in the current municipal assembly. I would like to dissolve the assembly and leave the decision up to the people,” Kawamura said at a news conference on Aug. 2, describing his decision to push for a recall as “the last resort.”
Kawamura, while winning overwhelmingly in the city of 1.79 million voters, faces a severe challenge from the assembly, which represents an alternative will of the people.
Kawamura intends to resign if the recall succeeds and seek re-election. He also hopes candidates he backs in a referendum can win a majority of seats.
The municipal tax cut and the assembly reform will be the specific issues to be raised in the referendum, he said.
Strife between the mayor and the assembly erupted in October, when Kawamura proposed halving the number of assembly seats and cutting their pay as he faced opposition over his pledge for the municipal tax cut. The tax cut bill was finally approved in an extraordinary session last December after Kawamura threatened the assembly with a recall if they voted it down.
However, the assembly launched a counterattack in March by passing a revised bill that limits the tax cut to only one year, citing concerns over revenue shortfalls.
Toshiaki Yokoi, chairman of the assembly, pointed out that the city issues ¥45 billion in municipal bonds to cover revenue shortages, and that the assembly members’ salaries have already been cut to the lowest level among the nation’s five metropolises.
Meanwhile, Kawamura said the assembly’s move has led him to believe the only way to follow through with the tax cut pledge is to change the assembly by filing for a recall.
The biggest challenge he faces is whether he can garner some 366,000 signatures in a month, a requirement before holding a recall referendum.
“I think we can get the sufficient number of signatures,” Kawamura predicted.
Under the Local Autonomy Act, more than one-third of voters’ signatures are needed within a month, but cities with more than 400,000 voters have less strict criteria, and as of June, 366,124 signatures are required in Nagoya.
A signature consists of a voter’s full name, address, date of birth and seal. As signature lists will be disclosed to the public, some voters who support specific assembly members may hesitate to sign.
Assembly members argue they are holding Kawamura’s administration in check on behalf of the people of Nagoya and the mayor has no cause to eliminate them.
Some voters agree with the assembly’s stance and do not support the recall, and not all of the 510,000 voters who supported Kawamura in the mayoral election are expected to join his petition.
If the sufficient number of signatures is submitted, the validity of the signatures will be checked, and a referendum will be held either at year’s end or the beginning of next year. The recall will be held with a majority of votes in support of the dissolution of the assembly, and the assembly election will be held within 40 days of the recall, which might coincide with the mayoral election and the Aichi gubernatorial election in early February.
Meanwhile, Kawamura will have to take the blame if he fails to collect enough signatures.
There is a growing movement in the assembly to submit a no-confidence motion against him, as the body sees Kawamura’s call for signatures as “a tool to measure how many citizens support the mayor.”
According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, between 2003 and 2006 there were 59 petitions filed for assembly recalls, leading to 33 referendums and 28 actual recalls. No recall has been held in cities of more than 200,000 voters.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by local daily Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Aug. 14.
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