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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hashimoto falls short of goal for majorities


Staff writer

OSAKA — Sunday's local elections produced mixed results for Kansai's populist politics, with Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto's political group securing a majority in the prefectural assembly but falling short of a majority in the municipal assembly.

Hashimoto's efforts to unseat Nara Gov. Shogo Arai also failed.

The final results showed elements of Hashimoto's One Osaka, or the Osaka Restoration Party, winning 57 of the prefectural assembly's 109 seats but only 33 of the municipal assembly's 86, 11 short of a majority. Without a majority in the city assembly, Hashimoto's efforts to merge Osaka's municipal and prefectural administrations are expected to grind to a halt.

"We were the losers in the Osaka municipal election, so we have to go back to the bargaining table with that understanding," Hashimoto told reporters Monday morning.

However, he was expected to approach New Komeito about an alliance. Hashimoto indicated prior to Sunday's polls he would consider a partnership with New Komeito, which won 19 seats in the municipal election and has always been especially powerful in Osaka.

A tieup with New Komeito, which has indicated it may support the idea of a merger, would secure a firm majority in the city assembly and be a major step forward toward realizing Hashimoto's goals.

Hashimoto is also looking ahead to December's Osaka mayoral election, where his group is expected field a candidate against incumbent Kunio Hiramatsu, who is strongly opposed to a city-prefecture merger.

Possible candidates include several local television celebrities with whom Hashimoto has been close since his days as a local TV commentator.

Arai, who won his second term as an independent but with strong support from local members of the Liberal Democratic Party, is opposed to participating in the Hashimoto-backed Union of Kansai Governments, a collaboration of seven prefectures in the region, because, he says, the concept is too vague.

Arai's victory came despite pressure from Hashimoto, his political group, other governors, Kansai corporate groups and media who largely favor the prefectural union.

Media polls over the issue show mixed results, with polls by media behind the union showing up to two-thirds of Nara's residents wanting to join, but other polls showing fewer than half support the idea.

Many supporters of Hashimoto and his local political group had hoped Sunday's election would bring out large numbers of voters attracted to the charismatic governor. Some didn't hide their disappointment that turnout was only 46 percent for the prefectural poll and 49 percent for the municipal counterpart.

"It's very regrettable, and shows voters mistrust the government," said Shinichi Otake, head of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives.



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The Japan Times

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