Even with Japan fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigning began today in the city of Osaka to determine whether or not it should become a ‘metropolis’ in 2025.
Long seen as the poor cousin of the Japanese capital, an estimated 2.25 million locals are eligible to vote in the referendum – the second such vote after a 2015 vote along the same lines was defeated.
Those backing the city becoming a metropolis are doing so on a campaign of cost cutting – claiming that much of the work carried out by the Osaka City government is duplicated at the prefectural level.
The move towards being legally recognised as a metropolis is being backed, however, by both the prefectural governor, Hirofumi Yoshimura and city mayor Ichiro Matsui, two popular local officials with the ability to swing the vote.
Speaking in central Osaka as the campaign began, Governor Yoshimura said “After having persistently argued for the elimination of the overlapping of administrative work, this day has finally arrived.”
Mayor Matsui has said he will retire from political life in 2023, when the next mayoral elections are expected to take place, should the referendum fail for a second time.
If the vote is passed by a majority – with overall turnout deemed irrelevant – the city’s 24 districts will be transformed into just four wards in a manner similar to the 23 wards of Tokyo proper.
The referendum will take place on November 1st with the result expected late in the evening of the same day, although some analysts are now predicting a low turnout with people afraid of going into crowded areas because of the coronavirus pandemic.