• Kyodo


Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said Saturday that he will step down to test the people’s will in a new election on his main policy goal of merging the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments into one entity.

The embattled co-leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) revealed his plans in a meeting with aides after the party’s convention in Tokyo.

At the convention, Hashimoto said, “In order to realize the Osaka metropolitan plan, I’d like to let you all steer Nippon Ishin.”

Asked about the remarks, Nippon Ishin Secretary-General Yorihisa Matsuno told reporters that Hashimoto did not mean to say that he was resigning as co-leader of the party, but that he wants to run again for mayor.

Hashimoto is considering submitting his resignation to the Osaka Municipal Assembly chairperson Monday and holding a news conference, according to a source close to him.

It is also expected the election to fill the post would be held on March 16 or March 23, in accordance with the Public Offices Election Law. The municipal government spent slightly less than ¥600 million for the 2007 mayoral election.

At a news conference later Saturday, Hashimoto said he would have to “expend political energy” to move his Osaka project forward. The remarks prompted speculation he was also stepping down as co-head of the party, which would leave former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, a staunch nationalist, in charge.

Asked if that was intention, Hashimoto declined to give a clear answer.

His plan calls for integrating the prefectural government of Osaka with the municipal governments of Osaka and the neighboring city of Sakai in April 2015.

But the outspoken mayor appeared pessimistic. His prospects of achieving the realignment within his current term, which runs through December 2015. On Friday, a joint panel of Osaka prefectural and municipal officials rejected his proposal for rezoning the area.

In the meantime, the party adopted a revised platform that waters down its harsh criticism of the Constitution — an apparent bid to help realign the opposition.

It dropped a phrase that brands the Constitution as the main factor that forced Japan into isolation and made it a target of disdain and imposed an unrealistic dream of absolute peace, and replaced it with pledges to drastically overhaul the Constitution to rebuild the country, saying the supreme law, imposed by the Allied Powers, hampered the self-reliance of the state, the (Japanese) race and the people.

The policy change is apparently aimed at promoting policy consultations with the other opposition parties, including elements of the Democratic Party of Japan, a fellow opposition party.

Nippon Ishin also vowed to bring about a realignment of the opposition so that it can serve as a base to effect a change in power, noting that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is too tightly bound by vested interests and bureaucrats.

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