National / Politics

Osaka's mayor intends to call referendum on metropolis plan in fall of 2020

Kyodo

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said Saturday he wants to hold a referendum around the fall of 2020 on whether to restructure the city into a metropolis like Tokyo in a bid to cut governance costs.

The “Osaka metropolis” plan was rejected in a referendum in 2015. But Matsui and his political group have been gaining momentum to revive the plan since they scored victories in key local elections held in April and some opponents showed signs of an about-face.

“I want to have (a referendum) in around a year and a half,” Matsui told reporters.

Matsui, a former governor of Osaka Prefecture who heads Osaka Ishin no Kai, was elected as the city’s new mayor in April with the group’s policy chief and former mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura, who was elected as the new prefectural governor.

They beat candidates including those backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito.

On Saturday, the local chapters of the LDP and Komeito said they will cooperate with Osaka Ishin in seeking to hold a referendum.

A referendum will be called after both the prefectural and municipal assemblies have approved a restructuring plan. In 2017, the assemblies jointly set up a legal council to draw the plan.

Osaka Ishin, which has a majority only in the prefectural assembly, asked for cooperation from Komeito.

The metropolis plan was originally drafted by former Osaka Gov. and Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who sought to reorganize the administration of the city into a government similar to Tokyo’s in a bid to save hundreds of billions of yen in taxpayers’ money by reducing functional overlaps between the prefectural and city governments.

But in the May 2015 referendum, voters dismissed the argument, with both ruling and opposition parties insisting that many costs could be cut without the need for reforms.