• Kyodo

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A second referendum on an initiative to reorganize the city of Osaka into a metropolis like Tokyo will be held later this year, after the municipal assembly on Thursday gave its approval for a new vote.

The plan is aimed at achieving more effective governance through cost-cutting.

The second vote will likely be held on Nov. 1 as it is supposed to take place within 60 days of both prefectural and municipal assemblies endorsing the initiative.

The prefectural assembly gave the green light last Friday to the referendum plan. It was put forward by the regional political group Osaka Ishin no Kai, headed by Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui.

The initiative was voted down by a slim margin in the first referendum in May 2015, with opponents arguing costs could be cut without such a reorganization.

It remains unclear, however, whether voting will actually take place on Nov. 1 as Matsui, who also heads the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai, has hinted at delaying the schedule depending on the novel coronavirus situation.

The Osaka metropolis plan was originally advocated in 2010 by Toru Hashimoto, who served as prefectural governor from 2008 and became mayor in 2011. He sought to reduce functional overlaps between the prefectural and municipal governments and save taxpayers’ money.

Under the current plan, Osaka Ishin no Kai, 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.

Opponents of the metropolis plan at the city assembly, including the Liberal Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, have argued the initiative could worsen services for residents and that the response to the virus crisis should be prioritized rather than the referendum.

The administrative reform plan gained momentum after Osaka Ishin no Kai 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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