National / Politics

Campaigns kick off across Japan for prefectural and metropolitan assembly elections

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Campaigning began Friday across Japan for prefectural and major metropolitan assembly elections set for April 7, with economic policies, aging, population decline and assistance for the elderly and working mothers the broad issues of concern for voters and candidates.

A total of 3,062 candidates were running in 41 prefectural assembly elections, while 1,396 people were standing for election in 17 metropolitan assemblies, according to Kyodo News. In addition to the assembly races, 11 gubernatorial elections and six mayoral elections are also taking place on April 7, campaigning for which began on March 21 and March 24 respectively.

In Osaka, races for the city’s governor and mayor, as well as the prefectural and municipal elections, are being closely watched locally and in Tokyo for their impact on the fortunes of Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) — the local political party that has a plurality but not a majority in the assemblies.

Up for grabs are 88 seats in the prefectural assembly and 83 seats in the municipal assembly, down from 86 seats four years ago. Osaka Ishin had 40 of the 88 prefectural assembly seats and 34 of the 86 municipal assembly seats before the campaign started.

To form a majority, it cooperated in both chambers with Komeito, but the two parties have fallen out over a proposal to dissolve the current city council structure and merge Osaka’s 24 wards into four semi-autonomous wards.

Osaka Ishin— members of which include Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who is running for Osaka mayor now, and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, who in turn is standing for governor — has made realizing the merger its mission. But it’s long been opposed not only by Komeito, but also the Liberal Democratic Party and all other major parties.

Osaka Ishin is aiming for a majority in both assemblies, but that could prove difficult. Losses by Osaka Ishin candidates to LDP candidates in the municipal assembly in particular could mean a final tally that allows for any two of the three largest parties (Osaka Ishin, Komeito and the LDP) to join forces to form a majority.

That would mean the end of Osaka Ishin’s merger plan, at least in its current form. It would also spell trouble for Osaka Ishin’s national party, Nippon Ishin no Kai, in the Upper House election in July. Nippon Ishin has been a staunch supporter of the LDP in the Diet. Losses by its Osaka Ishin members in the April 7 election could lead to Nippon Ishin dissolving or merging with other parties.

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