OSAKA, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Osaka City Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who is seeking a new mandate in the snap polls scheduled for March 23, is staking his political future by vigorously promoting his pet project, the Osaka Metropolis Plan.
Hashimoto's political opponents have criticized him for wasting some 600 million yen (about 5.8 million U.S. dollars) in city funds for the election just to get the people's support for his plan.
Candidates for city mayor, including Hashimoto and three others, have started their official campaign this week.
The election has been called after Hashimoto, who is also co- leader of the opposition Japan Restoration Party, announced his resignation last month, in order to run in a snap election to gain public support for his Osaka Metropolis Plan.
The main feature of the plan is to merge the prefectural and municipal governments.
After his announcement, leaders of the major political parties in the city council, including those from Osaka City Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the new Komeito Party and the Japanese Communist Party, expressed their common stand that the election was unnecessary and would only drain the tight city budget.
They also declined to field candidates in the upcoming election.
Because he has formally resigned, the local government had to organize a mayoral election in accordance with the law.
But only three other candidates, all of them without political experience, have filed their candidacies against the 44-year-old Hashimoto.
Hashimoto, whose victory in the upcoming election is assured, has been campaigning in the city center with allies from his political party, including Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui.
In his campaign sorties, Hashimoto has emphasized that he is the only person who can institute structural reforms in the municipal administration and establish a truly metropolitan government.
Hashimoto said that the implementation of his plan for Osaka would streamline the functions of the city government, save on administrative costs and ultimately lower the financial burden of city residents and businesses, thus increasing their per capita income and profits.
The other three candidates, most of them opposed to Hashimoto's plan, had failed to dent Hashimoto's popularity and have not attracted much attention and support from the voters.
Latest handouts released by the political opposition pointed out that the main reason why Hashimoto resigned was his "arrogant" attitude towards contrary views on his plan and that the scheduled election is actually a referendum on his vision for the city of Osaka and nothing else.
Media reports, including one by the daily Mainichi Shumbun, said that Hashimoto insisted in January for the council to adopt his idea to reorganize the current 24 wards into five and flatly refused to consider the other members' proposals that were based on a broader range of opinions. This friction, the report said, prompted Hashimoto to resign and call for a snap election.
The local media said that since the other candidates have not displayed a strong presence as yet, Hashimoto would easily win the race. But under such circumstances the expected voter turnout will be far less than the previous election's of 61 percent in 2011, the local media said.