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With four days until Sunday’s Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections, which are expected to influence the national political scene, candidates backed by Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) political group are leading candidates pushed by the established parties, local media polls show.

Separate polls by the Asahi, Mainichi and Sankei newspapers were taken last weekend. They showed Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, 51, who co-founded Osaka Ishin with Hashimoto, with a comfortable lead over Takako Kurihara, 53, a former Liberal Democratic Party prefectural assembly member who has the backing of the LDP, the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party of Japan.

In the mayoral race, Osaka Ishin-backed Hirofumi Yoshimura, 40, has a slight lead over Akira Yanagimoto, 41, who also has the backing of the LDP, JCP and DPJ.

Yoshimura appears to be doing well with voters between 20 and 50, while Yanagimoto is the favorite of the over-60 crowd. Yoshimura was drawing about 40 percent of unaffiliated voters, and Yanagimoto was drawing about 50 percent.

However, the newspaper polls showed that anywhere between 30 and 40 percent of those surveyed had not yet made up their minds.

At issue in the elections is whether to continue Osaka Ishin’s efforts to merge the city’s 24 wards into five semiautonomous wards as the first step to restructuring the prefecture. This goal has been staunchly opposed by all established parties, despite polls showing varying degrees of support among their supporters. An Osaka Ishin-backed merger proposal was voted down in a May municipal referendum by just over 10,000 votes out of 1.4 million cast.

A Kyodo News poll last weekend showed that 54.3 percent of respondents who were LDP supporters did not sympathize with Osaka Ishin’s campaign pledge to once again create a merger plan, but that 40.9 percent did.

One the other hand, the Kyodo poll showed 69.1 percent of JCP supporters did not sympathize with Osaka Ishin’s efforts, while 20.2 percent did.

Meanwhile, 89.3 percent of DPJ supporters said they did not sympathize with Osaka Ishin’s efforts, while 10.7 percent felt the opposite.

As for Komeito, which is officially neutral but told its supporters to vote “no” in the May referendum, 82.9 percent of its supporters said they did not sympathize with Osaka Ishin’s plan, while 10.4 percent said they did.

Of unaffiliated voters, 27.9 percent said they sympathize, while 61.9 percent said they did not.

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