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While Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is all but certain to be returned to office in Sunday’s election, a lack of interest among voters and the refusal by the major political parties to field candidates threatens to make the result meaningless.

Hashimoto resigned last month after a municipal committee formed to discuss merging the city and prefecture of Osaka opposed the mayor’s proposal, which calls for a final merger plan to be decided by this summer and for a citywide referendum on the issue in the autumn.

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