NAGOYA (Kyodo) Official campaigning kicked off Friday for the Nagoya Municipal Assembly poll, a month after residents voted to dissolve the local body that had rejected Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s radical pledges, which include a tax cut and halving members’ salaries.

With 138 candidates vying for 75 seats, the March 13 election is expected to be a battle between Kawamura’s Genzei Nippon (Tax Cut Japan) group and established political parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party.

The outcome will be closely watched because of its possible impact on upcoming nationwide local elections in April and on the central government under Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who heads the DPJ.

Kawamura, who resigned as mayor to test public opinion after the assembly rejected his key pledges, returned to the post by winning the mayoral election in February by a large margin against a DPJ-backed candidate among other rivals.

The mayor is hoping members of his group, who are mostly political novices, gain a majority in the assembly and allow him to fulfill his pledges, such as permanently cutting municipal income tax by 10 percent and halving the annual salary of assembly members to about ¥8 million.

“Voting for the same people as in the past would not change politics,” Kawamura, a former DPJ Lower House lawmaker, said in a stump speech in Nagoya. He called on voters to alter the nature of the assembly, which he said has become a body that allows members to enrich themselves.

The DPJ, meanwhile, is calling for “truly necessary reforms” in the assembly to maintain its support amid Kan’s growing unpopularity in national politics. The LDP also says it will seek to reform the assembly to win the confidence of residents.

Among those who filed their candidacy Friday are 41 members from Genzei Nippon, 27 from the DPJ, 24 from the LDP and 12 from New Komeito. Other candidates include 16 members from the Japanese Communist Party, eight from Your Party and 10 independents.

More than 70 percent of voters in Nagoya supported a referendum to disband the municipal assembly on the same day the mayoral election was held in early February.

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