Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's bid to reorganize the city into five special districts was voted down in an unprecedented referendum Sunday. The failure of the project on which Hashimoto bet his political fortunes and his declared exit from politics when his term ends in December are expected to have major repercussions that extend to national politics, including the future course of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), which he co-founded.

But that aside, the key question posed by the aborted project — whether the current administrative structure in western Japan's largest city serves the local residents' interests — should continue to be discussed. The narrow victory for the opponents in the vote — 694,844 for and 705,585 against in the city of 2.1 million voters — indicates that a large portion of Osaka residents are not happy with the city's status quo.

Sunday's referendum was the first of its kind in which local residents voted on the future shape of a major city. Hashimoto's project, modeled after Tokyo and its 23 wards, called for breaking up the city of Osaka into five special districts that would come directly under the umbrella of Osaka Prefecture.