By Yuri Sato
A campaign to collect signatures for a referendum on Yokohama’s initiative on integrated resorts (IR) featuring casinos concluded on Nov. 4. The two-month campaign resulted in the collection of 156,445 signatures, more than twice the legal number needed to make a direct referendum request. For the referendum to take place, a proposition submitted to the mayor needs to be approved by the city council.
The “Yokohama citizens group to decide on the pros and cons of casinos” was launched in response to Yokohama mayor Fumiko Hayashi’s declaration of support to invite IRs to the city in August 2019. Hayashi was elected to a third term in a summer 2017 mayoral election on the platform of “going back to the drawing board [on IRs].” Over 620,000 valid signatures from Yokohama voters were required to be collected in person within two months [to request a referendum]. The group started its signature-collecting campaign on Sept. 4, 2020.
Hayashi said in an Oct. 28 press briefing that she would retract the invitation for IRs in the event of a referendum resulting in a majority vote against it. For the referendum to take place, a proposition must be approved by the city council, in which a majority is held by the Komeito and group of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and unaffiliated council members, both of which support the invitation of IRs. The citizens group plans to approach each council member on approving the referendum.
The citizens group plans to submit the collected signatures on Nov. 13 to the election administration commission of the Yokohama 18th district. The citizens group will directly request Hayashi for a proposition on a referendum upon confirmation of the number of valid signatures by the end of December. The city council will deliberate on whether to implement the referendum at the beginning of 2021. (Abridged)