• Kyodo

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Official campaigning began Sunday in the race to choose Osaka’s next mayor, with Toru Hashimoto seeking a return to the position he quit and a fresh mandate to overhaul local politics — but with major political parties distancing themselves from the poll.

The combative Hashimoto, 44, surprised voters last month when he resigned as mayor of the city in the middle of a four-year term so he could prove he still has public backing for his goal of creating an Osaka metropolitan government.

Hashimoto, co-head of the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), will be running as a candidate from the local chapter of his party.

Other candidates running in the March 23 election are Mac Akasaka, a 65-year-old businessman and head of a political group, and Shigeo Ninomiya, a 37-year-old former temporary staff worker.

Major political parties — the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, as well as the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party — have forgone fielding candidates for the poll, which they have criticized.

The parties have slammed Hashimoto’s resignation and subsequent election, calling the move wasteful spending of taxpayer money.

Echoing such views, a majority of voters in the city questioned Hashimoto’s bid to seek re-election.

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