Sakai Mayor Osami Takeyama defeated his Osaka Ishin no Kai challenger again in an election Sunday that was viewed as a rematch over the regional party’s campaign to merge Osaka’s municipal governments with the prefectural government.

Takeyama, a 67-year-old independent, secured his third four-year term with support from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party and Nihon no Kokoro o Taisetsu ni suru To (Party for Japanese Kokoro).

He beat Osaka Ishin’s Hideki Nagafuji, a 41-year-old former Osaka Prefectural Assembly member, by highlighting his opposition to the regional party’s so-called Osaka metropolis initiative, which would realign the governments of ordinance-designated cities with the prefectural government.

“Sakai will not join the initiative. It was confirmed again in this battle,” Takeyama said. He won the previous election four years ago also by rejecting the metropolis initiative.

The prefecture and the city of Osaka are discussing the initiative at a joint statutory committee. Osaka Ishin hopes to win referendums on the initiative in autumn 2018.

But Nagafuji’s defeat is likely to be a drag on the party’s efforts and may also hurt its national affiliate, Nippon Ishin no Kai.

Some Ishin group members have expressed hope that former group leader Toru Hashimoto, who has strong name recognition, will return to politics to revive the Ishin group.

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