Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party will field a former deputy governor in the Osaka gubernatorial election next month, after actor Takuro Tatsumi declined its request, its local chapter said Monday.
Tadakazu Konishi, having served in the No. 2 post under Gov Ichiro Matsui between 2012 and 2015, is set to face off against Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura. Matsui and Yoshimura are seeking a full four-year term in each other’s current position in the hope of realizing the goal of reshaping Osaka city into a metropolitan government similar to Tokyo’s.
“Among other challenges, officials of the Osaka prefectural government have put so much effort into the plan. We have to put an end to debate over the matter,” Konishi said at a press conference in the major western Japan city, referring to the idea to create the “Osaka metropolis.”
As Matsui and Yoshimura tendered their resignations Friday, the LDP, which is against the Osaka metropolis plan, pinned its hopes on the 60-year-old Tatsumi’s high public profile.
He was formally asked to run in the election when he met with a senior LDP member in Tokyo that day, sources familiar with the situation have said.
Expectations were high in the LDP that Tatsumi, who has appeared in dramas and entertainment shows and spent his childhood in the city of Osaka, could garner votes from those with no particular party affiliation even with less than one month’s preparation.
But Tatsumi turned down the LDP request on Sunday, prompting the party to pick another figure to challenge Yoshimura.
“I made the decision after talking it through with my family,” Tatsumi told Kyodo News on Sunday, adding that the request “came too suddenly. I was unable to sort out (my thoughts) in a short time.”
After graduating from Kyoto University, Tatsumi made his national debut in NHK’s drama “Romance” in 1984. He is also known as a food and wine connoisseur.
Matsui and Yoshimura are respectively the head and policy chief of the political group Osaka Ishin no Kai.
By running for office again on the day of the nationwide local elections on April 7, they hope to give a boost to their group, which does not hold a majority in either the Osaka prefectural or the city assembly.
Under Japanese election law, if the two leaders won re-election in their current positions, fresh elections would have to be held when their original four-year terms expire later this year.
Matsui and Yoshimura were both first elected in November 2015 on a platform to resurrect the metropolis plan originally drafted by former Osaka Gov. and Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who sought to save taxpayers’ money by reducing functional overlaps between the prefectural and city governments.
Entering the Osaka prefectural government in 1980, Konishi, 64, assumed the post of vice governor in 2012. While overseeing the local government’s fiscal reconstruction effort, he and Matsui were known to have had conflicting opinions on local administration.