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Referendum on Osaka metropolis plan set for 2020

The Osaka Prefectural Government building is seen in Osaka's Chuo Ward, on Feb. 25, 2019. (Mainichi/Yumi Shibamura)

OSAKA -- A referendum on the creation of an Osaka metropolis like Tokyo is set to be held sometime in fall or winter next year after a legislative council agreed on a broad framework for the local government reorganization plan on Nov. 22.

The council also approved reorganization of Osaka into special wards on Jan. 1, 2025, if a majority of voters in the referendum vote for the Osaka metropolis plan. Prefectural Assemblyman and council chairman Yutaka Imai of the regional political party Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka Restoration Association), which is advocating the plan, will confirm the direction of the plan with a vote at a Dec. 26 council meeting and lay out an agreement.

The council was resumed following the Osaka gubernatorial-mayoral double election this past April, where pro-metro plan candidates secured victories, and the Nov. 22 meeting was its sixth session. The talks on the metro Osaka framework have been moving forward rapidly after the Osaka local chapter of Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the central government, shifted to OK the referendum.

Adjustments were made to the plan based on four conditions set by Komeito -- reducing the cost of establishing new special wards, maintaining existing resident services, setting up child consultation centers in each special ward, and maintaining public services at ward office counters. The Osaka Ishin also suggested potential names for special wards and changes to parts of Osaka's main government building. The rest of the plan was sorted out according to the original rough draft.

During the Nov. 22 meeting, the council members discussed potential dates when the city would be reorganized into special wards, as well as the organizational structure of the wards and the prefectural government and also about the structure of child consultation centers. While members of the local LDP chapter and Japanese Communist Party (JCP) voiced opposition to some suggestions, Imai concluded that the rough draft "is largely supported."

Since the planned timing of the Osaka reorganization and preparation period for the 2025 World Exposition in the western Japan city and the broader Kansai region would overlap, Komeito requested the council to move up the time when the city plans to hire more people. The party also asked the council to consider working out a system where special wards would be treated equally when it came to building ward offices.

Prefectural Assemblyman Yoichiro Higo of Komeito commented after the council meeting, "I believe that the plan is more or less moving forward." Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, both Osaka Ishin members, expressed confidence in the referendum, stating that the plan was reviewed based on Komeito's wishes.

Meanwhile, Osaka Municipal Assemblyman Hirotoshi Kawashima of the LDP said, "Will the plan really work for the people (of Osaka)? I will make a sensible judgement." Another municipal assembly member, Tomoko Yamanaka of the JCP, remained critical of the plan, saying, "It's reckless, and there is no consideration for the people."

(Japanese original by Kensuke Yaoi, Yumi Shibamura and Hiroko Michishita, Osaka City News Department)

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