Despite a lamentable voters turn out, Toru Hashimoto was re-elected as Osaka mayor in a snap election that sealed his decreasing influence among the city’s residents. A pitiful 23.59 percent of voters showed up last Sunday in what both supporters and critics call a huge waste of time and taxpayer money.
The election is caused by Hashimoto’s desire to overhaul the local administration. He called for a snap election in February after a city assembly committee refused to endorse his plan and timetable to integrate the city with the prefecture. He thought a decisive win against a candidate form a major party who is against his plan will give him the much-needed influence to urge the assembly to have at least one his four plans voted on in a public referendum. But opposing political parties declined to field candidates as they deemed the elections a waste of money that will not resolve anything.
After the declaration of his victory, Hashimoto had Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui speak to reporters and defend him from critics, who kept saying that the elections, which cost 600 million yen, was a waste of resources. Matsui countered, “We kept hearing this was a useless election, but despite that, one in four voters went to the polls.” Matsui also said in his speech that Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) would meet with other parties to discuss the merger. An integration plan to be voted on in a public referendum by this autumn is expected, with full implementation by spring 2015. However, the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Communist Party are not agreeable with the plan.
New Komeito initially supported Osaka Ishin to form a majority, but after the party vetoed a proposal supported by Osaka Ishin, Hashimoto accused the party of not following through with its promise to support him, and resigned from the group, which resulted in the snap elections. Hashimoto has campaigned fully for only one out of the four merger plans under consideration and many members of Osaka Ishin express concern that unless ties with New Komeito are renewed, legislative deadlock may occur in the municipal assembly and a possible backlash in the 2015 city and prefectural assembly elections.