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Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003

New Osaka mayor claims mandate; voters 'no longer care'


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Osaka Mayor-elect Junichi Seki said Monday he will do his utmost to remedy the city's problems.

News photo
Junichi Seki

"The results of the election show that people in Osaka trust me to manage the city properly," he said.

The city's woes range from fiscal debts to a surge in the number of homeless people. Seki, a former vice mayor, will assume the post Dec. 19. He has promised to announce basic plans to reform the city's bureaucracy by the end of the year.

Sunday's low voter turnout, however, seems to reflect public apathy toward the new mayor.

Only 33.3 percent of the city's eligible voters bothered to turn out for the election, in which the heavily favored Seki easily defeated four other candidates.

It was the second-lowest turnout in Osaka's history, and came despite public appeals last week from all candidates imploring voters to go to the polls.

"Most people in Osaka no longer care about who is mayor," remarked Mitsuhiro Koyama, an Osaka resident who works at a camera shop in the Umeda shopping district.

"They recognize the mayor has far less power than the governor of Osaka."

The Kansai Association of Corporate Executives was also cautious.

"The low turnout rate was regrettable, especially given the serious problems Osaka faces with regards to failed third-sector projects," said Tsutomu Okuda, head of the association.

Seki campaigned to rectify Osaka's deficit, now totaling nearly 5.5 trillion yen, and deal with problems such as a bloated city bureaucracy and street crime.

"The new mayor has a strong sense of the dangers Osaka faces, and we hope he will address the problems by tapping the expertise of the private sector," Kansai Economic Chairman Yoshihisa Akiyama said.

Under Seki's predecessor, Takafumi Isomura, who was first elected mayor in 1995, Osaka saw third-sector projects such as the Asian Trade Center decline, launched a failed bid for the 2008 Olympics, and watched as the number of homeless in the streets soared.



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