TOKYO (AFP) - The controversial mayor of Japan's second city, Osaka, will step down and seek re-election in a bid to prove he has public support for plans to reform local government.
Mr Toru Hashimoto, who caused an international stir last year when he said women forced into sexual slavery by Japan's imperial army served a "necessary" purpose, is expected to submit his resignation later on Monday.
Mr Hashimoto, who doubles as co-head of the Japan Restoration Party, has long championed a plan to merge the prefectural and municipal governments of Osaka, claiming it would cut out unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. But a panel made up of representatives of the Osaka prefectural government and Osaka municipal government on Friday rejected plans to speed up the integration, prompting his decision to go over their heads to the electorate.
"If it is the will of voters, I will leave the world of politics without hesitation," Mr Hashimoto told a party convention at weekend, adding that a renewal of his mandate would prove the public was behind the plan.
But rivals have dismissed the move as self-indulgent and said they have no intention of fielding candidates.
"It is a ridiculous scheme to call an election just because the discussion is not going the way he wants it to," the Yomiuri Shimbun daily quoted a senior member of the New Komeito party as saying. "He is like a child screaming."