Mayor of Osaka Hashimoto Toru, who is Co-head of the Nippon-Ishin-no-Kai (=Japan Restoration Party), resigned in line with statutory regulations of the local assembly and an election is scheduled to vote on March 23. Campaigning started on March 9. Major parties as the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), New Komeito and the Communist Party do not field candidates. The election is solely of Hashimoto and for Hashimoto. Under the circumstances his supporters may see a final stage of their political influence.
ELECTION ONLY FOR HASHIMOTO AND OF HASHIMOTO
The election will be held due to quit of the post of Mayor by Hashimoto, who expressed his decision to run in the election to seek reelection as he wants to test voters’ favor to his plan of Osaka Metropolis Plan. His project had been rejected by factions except the Ishin-no-Kai in the local assembly which claims that such an election is irresponsible to be justified. The members added to say the election would cost 600 million Yen. As the assembly disapproved his resignation, the mayor lost the post. The proposed scheme has been debated in the Legal Councils of the governments of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City, but an agreement was not reached by the Ishin-no-Kai and other parties over how to divide new districts.
Hashimoto’s prestige was lost
Influence of the party and prestige of former Mayor, which had once dominated the political scene, fell to the ground as is seen in his stepping down. One of the causes is attributed to his remarks: ‘the war-time comfort women system was necessary’ and ‘US soldiers should enjoy themselves in the sexual entertainment zones’.
Another cause is due to loss of people’s expectation toward his scheme. He loudly insists on ONE OSAKA, which means, according to Hashimoto, to remove redundant expenditure deriving from the Prefecture of Osaka and the City of Osaka. The project represented the party, but has not brought about concrete results. Enthusiasm has shrunken.
The Osaka Ishin-no-Kai, a local chapter of the party, had asserted that in total 400 billion Yen would be saved, but later it changed the figure to less than 100 billion Yen. Today, some estimate it may be equal to zero.
Some experts give an opposite estimate at the moment, pointing new expenses. If Osaka City is formulated into a Tokyo model, administrative districts, called ‘ku (=ward)’, will be set up that have independent authority; new city office buildings will be constructed, assemblies consisting of 40-50 members will be organized and new Boards of Education will be necessary.
New administrative jobs, including resident registration and taxation, will be necessary. Nobody can estimate the initial cost and maintenance expenses. Furthermore, social services which are equally rendered to every Osaka citizen will change from one district from another. Gaps will grow to produce new troubles. The more concretely the plan is disclosed, the less attarctive it is proven to be.
The Hashimoto’s party advocates a privatization policy by which property of Osaka residents is traded. Responsibility of a municipality is thrown away. As for public subway and bus services, in fact, a privatization process is not going smoothly as anticipated. A proposal to sell off the Senboku Rapid Railway, which is managed by a sub-contractor of the prefecture government, to a US investment fund company was rejected by the Osaka Prefectural Assembly due to rebellion of the members of Hashimoto’s own party.
Prefecture and City assets are privatized for his own sake
Scandals have emerged around Mayor one after another; some of the publicly selected mayors of city districts and school principals involved in abuse, including sexual harassment. Mayor Hashimoto’s responsibility for the selection is accused of. A public high school principal is a classmate of Hashimoto and is later elected by Governor of Osaka, Matsui Ichiro, as Director of Board of Education of Osaka Prefecture. As Principal he used to watch movements of the mouth of students and teachers while they stand and sing in unison the anthem Kimigayo in the school ceremonies. Later, as Board Director, he issued an order to principals of all public high schools to do the same. People criticize that Hashimoto has worked to consolidate his influence under the cover of public selection system to rely on human resources from the private sector.
A support rate of the Ishin-no-Kai has declined since 2011 when the simultaneous elections of prefecture and city assemblies were held. In the recent mayoral election in the neighboring city of Sakai the party lost, which triggered rapid deterioration of fame as is seen in the succeeding elections.
Citizens of Osaka City are offended by the egoist election of Hashimoto. According to a public opinion poll, repellence overwhelms favor. Only 10% of citizens agree to the metropolis project.
Voters in general were attracted by a possibility of change that might break through the stagnated reality, but not by Hashimoto’s metropolis plan.
February 25, 2014