• Kyodo

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The Osaka Prefectural Assembly approved Friday a plan to reorganize the city of Osaka into a metropolis like Tokyo, paving the way for a second referendum on the structural reform aimed at achieving more effective governance through cost-cutting.

If the Osaka Municipal Assembly endorses the plan Thursday, a vote by residents will be held Nov. 1 on whether to go ahead with the flagship policy of regional political group Osaka Ishin no Kai headed by Mayor Ichiro Matsui, who doubles as the leader of the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai.

The vote will be the second of its kind after the metropolis plan was rejected by a slim margin in a referendum in 2015, as local chapters of both the ruling and opposition parties argued costs could be cut without such a reorganization.

It remains uncertain whether the voting will be conducted as planned in November amid the coronavirus pandemic, with a prefectural assembly committee overseeing the matter urging the local government to postpone or cancel in case the virus poses a serious risk to residents.

The metropolis plan was originally drafted by former Osaka Gov. and Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who sought to push ahead with the reform to save taxpayers’ money by reducing functional overlaps between the prefectural and city governments.

Under the current plan, Osaka Ishin, whose acting leader is Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, aims to restructure the city’s existing 24 administrative districts into four special wards with greater authority similar to those in Tokyo.

The plan was resurrected and gained momentum after Osaka Ishin won local elections to choose a new mayor and governor in April last year. Matsui was elected mayor and Yoshimura was elected governor, swapping their positions.

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