Osaka officials announced on Monday that they would hold a referendum regarding the “Osaka Metropolis Plan” on 1 November, which if approved would abolish the current city of Osaka and reorganize it into four special wards.
This is the second referendum on the topic since it was rejected by a narrow margin of 10,000 votes in May 2015. There are approximately 2.24 million Osaka residents aged 18 or over who are eligibleto vote.
If passed, the city of Osaka, which is a city designated by government ordinance, will be abolished on 1 January 2025, and will be reorganized into special wards Yodogawa Ward, Kita Ward, Chuo Ward and Tennoji Ward. It would also be the first time a cabinet-ordered city was abolished since the system was established in 1956. But what does it hope to achieve?
Osaka Ishin (The Osaka Innovative Party) and Komeito, which are in favor of the reorganization, emphasize the elimination of the “duplicate administration” between Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City, although some contradictions remain in the plan.
At present Osaka Ishin makes up a majority in both the prefecture and city, and it seems that the reform will be able to progress smoothly from within the current prefecture and city structures.
The initial cost of moving to a special wards system will be JPY24.1 billion (US$229 million), including system repair costs and government building maintenance costs, which some may consider a waste amidst the current pandemic.
Further, if there are four special wards, elected mayor and ward council members will be responsible for administration of the wards and this may result in different directions being taken between a ward and Osaka prefecture, depending on the balances of power.
At the same time, Osaka Ishin has enthusiastically promoted the Osaka/Kansai Expo and development of an IR on Yumeshima Island. This could make for a difficult choice for residents who may agree with an IR but not want Osaka city to be abolished.