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Monday, Nov. 28, 2005

Seki returns as mayor of Osaka


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Junichi Seki was returned to office in Sunday's Osaka mayoral election after he resigned amid clashes with the city assembly and bureaucrats over reform.

His main rivals in the race were Megumu Tsuji, a former member of the House of Representatives, and Kiyoshi Himeno, a former Osaka city assembly member from the Japanese Communist Party.

The election was called as a result of Seki's resignation last month only two years into his term. With the electoral victory, Seki is seen as receiving the public mandate he sought to carry out his reforms, which he has been pushing since taking office.

He will serve out the remainder of his first term, which runs to December 2007.

Sunday began with cloudy skies, which election officials feared would dampen turnout.

Concerns over the possibility that voter turnout would be the lowest ever for a mayoral race were allayed as electoral officials said 33.92 percent of the roughly 2 million eligible voters went to the ballot boxes.

The figure was 0.61 point higher than the 33.31 percent logged in the mayoral race of 2003, which was the second-lowest turnout on record.

Many people said they were far more concerned with other things than voting.

"What's the point? It's not like there is a real choice. I think it's pretty obvious that Seki will win again," said Chisako Tanaka, a secretary who said she would spend the day buying Christmas presents for friends and family.

Turnout was generally low in the prosperous Kita, Nishi and Chuo wards, and highest in the heavily industrialized wards along Osaka Bay. But many who did vote indicated they preferred Seki and his reforms, however difficult, to yet another mayor.

"Seki's only been in office two years. While I don't entirely agree with his proposals, he seems determined to tackle Osaka's huge financial problems," said Sadao Tsuji, a small business owner in Nishiyodogawa Ward.



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