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Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010
Dubious referendum in Nagoya
Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya led a signature collection for a referendum to recall the city assembly because it opposes his policies. Last month, the city's election management commission decided that many of the some 465,000 signatures collected by a group supporting the mayor were invalid and that there were not enough valid signatures from eligible voters. But on Dec. 15, it reversed the decision after reviewing some 34,000 signatures following an objection filed by citizens. The final tally of valid signatures came to 369,008, above the required 365,795.
Mr. Kawamura proposes a permanent 10 percent residential tax cut. Although the city assembly enacted a by-law incorporating his proposal in December 2009, it was revised in March, making the tax cut good for only fiscal 2010 on account of the city's bad finances. He retaliated by proposing to halve the number of assembly members and their pay. Then he started a movement to call for a referendum to recall the assembly. In late November, following the election management's first decision, he also said he would resign and run again in the mayoral election.
Mr. Kawamura's move appears to violate the spirit of the Local Autonomy Law. The initiative to recall a municipal assembly should come from grassroots citizens, not from a local government head. A vital function of a municipal assembly is to check the behavior of a local government head. Mr. Kawamura's move can be seen as an attempt to create a rubber-stamp assembly.
The mayoral election, the Aichi gubernatorial election and the referendum are likely to be held on the same day in February. If the assembly is recalled, an assembly election will be held in March. Mr. Kawamura plans to field some 40 candidates from his regional party Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan). He may eventually gain control of the assembly. But his move smacks of populism. The residential tax cut will not help low-income people who are already exempt from the levy. It may also lead to a cut in the welfare budget. Nagoya citizens must fully consider this before voting.