Osaka, Dec. 26 (Jiji Press)–A statutory panel set up by Osaka Prefecture and the city of Osaka, the prefecture’s capital, approved on Thursday a so-called Osaka metropolis plan to reorganize the city into four special wards directly under the prefecture in 2025.
The western Japan city is expected to hold a second referendum on the Osaka metropolis initiative in early November 2020 if things go smoothly. In May 2015, voters in the city rejected the structural reform by a slim margin.
On Thursday, the panel adopted the reform framework by a majority vote, with the support of panel members from Osaka Ishin no Kai, a regional party, and Komeito, the coalition partner of ruling the Liberal Democratic Party in national politics.
“We managed to come this far,” Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, who leads the regional party, told reporters after the panel meeting. “We’re telling the people that we’ll create a better Osaka.”
“We’ll work to have our party’s supporters vote for the metropolis plan in the referendum,” said Shigeki Sato, head of Komeito’s Osaka chapter.
Following the May 2015 referendum, Matsui and Hirofumi Yoshimura, also from Osaka Ishin, won the Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections, respectively, in December that year by pledging to retry the metropolis plan.
The statutory panel resumed talks in June 2017, but it hit a stalemate early this year, due to a disagreement between then Osaka Governor Matsui and Komeito.
But Komeito changed its stance and threw its support behind the metropolis plan after Osaka Ishin rebooted the realignment initiative through the Osaka mayoral and gubernatorial polls in April, in which Matsui and Yoshimura swapped their positions.
Ahead of the vote at the panel meeting on Thursday, an Osaka Ishin member said that it is necessary to resolve the current “double administration” in the city, which could hamper its growth due to possible differences of opinions with the prefecture side.
Meanwhile, an LDP member claimed that the structural reform has a high risk of side effects, such as a deterioration of administrative services for residents.
A Japanese Communist Party member argued that splitting the city into special wards would bring no benefit and cause a lot of harm.
The approved reform framework calls for not building new offices for the envisioned special wards for the time being, but using the existing office buildings of the city government and the 24 wards under the city. It also calls for setting up child counseling centers in all of the special wards.
The Osaka panel will finalize the metropolis plan after holding town meetings on the matter from around April 2020. The prefectural and city assemblies are seen voting on the reform plan around summer in the year. The reorganization plan, if it clears both assemblies, will be put to a referendum.