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Yumeshima IR Plans Plunged into Uncertainty by Referendum Loss

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The prospects for the development of an urban IR at Yumeshima, Osaka, took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse after voters rejected the administrative reorganisation proposals of the local leaders, and Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui announced his intention to retire from politics at the end of his term.

While Sunday’s referendum was not directly related to the Yumeshima IR plans, it does exercise an enormous impact on the political fates of both the strongly pro-IR Osaka governor and mayor, as well as the movement that they lead.

The so-called Osaka Metropolis Plan has been the central policy plank of the Osaka Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) since its establishment. It called for the administrative unification of Osaka prefecture and city to create Japan’s second “metropolis” following Tokyo. This has been portrayed by Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura as symbolic of the revival of Osaka’s glory and a necessary step to reduce wasteful bureaucratic practices.

Osaka Ishin’s original metropolis plan was narrowly defeated in a referendum in 2015, leading to the retirement from politics of the movement’s young founder, Toru Hashimoto. On Sunday, a revised version of the plan was again narrowly (by less than 1%) rejected by the voters. This was a particularly bitter result because until the final week or so polling had shown the proposal heading for voter approval.

In the wake of Osaka Ishin’s second failure to gain sufficient support for its signature policy, the party’s leader, Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, announced that he would finish out his current term and then retire from politics in April 2023.

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