• Kyodo

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A referendum on whether to reorganize Osaka into a metropolis with an administrative structure akin to Tokyo will be held Nov. 1, the city’s election board said Monday.

It will be the second time the city has held such a referendum following the first in May 2015, when it was voted down by a slim margin. Some 2.24 million residents aged 18 or older who have Japanese nationality are eligible to participate in the upcoming vote.

The initiative to abolish the city for supposedly more cost-effective governance was put forward by the regional political group Osaka Ishin no Kai, led by Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui.

“Toward the November referendum, I will make every effort to offer explanations to help residents deepen their understanding (of the metropolis plan) so that they can make their decisions,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, vice head of the political group, said at a meeting.

Under the plan, the group aims to restructure the city’s existing 24 administrative districts into four special wards with greater authority on Jan. 1, 2025.

While Osaka Prefecture will map out strategies on areas ranging from economic growth and tourism to infrastructure maintenance, the special wards will be in charge of providing services to residents, if the plan is approved in the referendum.

The metropolis plan was originally put forward by Toru Hashimoto, a former Osaka governor who formed the political group in 2010 and became mayor of the city the following year. He sought to save tax payers’ money by reducing functional overlaps between the prefectural and city governments.

The plan was approved by the prefectural assembly in late August and by the city assembly last week.

The campaign period for the referendum will formally begin Oct. 12.

The city could reschedule the referendum if the spread of the novel coronavirus expands or if there is a general election in October, according to the election board.

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