Mainichi: DPJ split over bill to give NJ permanent residents right to vote


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a little update on the current debate regarding granting local suffrage to PR holders.  As ruling parties go, the Social Democrats led by Fukushima Mizuho support it, the (tiny) Kokumin Shintou led by Kamei Shizuka opposes it, and the DPJ itself (as usual) is split.  No surprises there, but we’ll see how the cards fall if and when it’s brought to a vote.  Of course, watching public policy being made is famously like watching sausages being made (you don’t want to know what goes into it), but the fact that the Cabinet in general supports it is telling.  And enough people are feeling threatened by it that there is quite visible public protest (but I’ll get to that later), which is also telling (if people felt no threat of it actually coming to pass, they wouldn’t bother).

My take is that whenever you have an opposition party in power (particularly a leftist one), you always have deep internal divisions, because the left in particular has trouble rallying around one issue.  The right has it a lot easier:  either rally around money issues (very clear cut), or else just keep the status quo (“there’s a good reason why things are the way they are, so if they ain’t broke…”).  So the DPJ having divisions and mixed feelings about this is only natural — it’s par for the course on the political spectrum.  Majority rules, anyway.  So let people grouse about it for an adequate amount of time, and let’s see how the vote turns out.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo.


Government split over bill to give non-Japanese permanent residents right to vote
Mainichi Daily News November 7, 2009.
Courtesy HJ

A bill proposed by a key member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to grant permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections has split the party.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka has declared that he intends to submit a bill to the current session, and recommended that parties allow their legislators to freely decide whether to vote for or against the bill.

His move is widely viewed by many politicians as an attempt to drive a wedge between the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is reluctant to give foreigners the right to vote, and its former coalition partner Komeito, which is enthusiastic about the move.

However, the issue has drawn opposition from within the DPJ and the coalition government it leads.

DPJ legislators are divided over the issue. There are numerous legislators within the governing party in favor of giving permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections, including Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa.

However, there are a certain number of opponents, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno.

“There are over 140 new members of the House of Representatives who have just been elected to their first term in the latest general election. It’s necessary to hold in-depth discussions on the issue within the party,” Hirano told a news conference on Oct. 22.

Moreover, in order to ensure that the bill be passed into law, it will require an extension to the Diet session — which has drawn complaints from officials at the prime minister’s office and ministries, for fear that a longer Diet session could adversely affect their compilation of the fiscal 2010 state budget draft.

The government has limited the number of bills it submitted to the current Diet session to make sure that it can complete the compilation of the fiscal 2010 budget draft by the end of this year.

Even Hatoyama, who is in favor of the permanent foreign residents’ rights to vote in local elections, has taken a cautious approach toward the bill. “I’m enthusiastic about the move, but it’s an extremely serious theme within the party. There are various opinions on the issue. We have no intention of trying to forcibly push ahead with the bill,” Hatoyama told a Lower House Budget Committee session on Thursday.

Furthermore, Yamaoka’s move runs counter to the DPJ’s policy of leaving policy-making entirely to the Cabinet and banning legislator-sponsored bills in principle.

Even Komeito, which is in favor of the move, has displayed skepticism. “I don’t think we’ve completely formed a consensus among party members,” a senior member said.

LDP Secretary-General Tadamori Oshima also voiced opposition to allowing its members to decide whether to vote for or against the bill at their own discretion.

“It’s different from the Organ Transplantation Law (that political parties allowed their legislators to freely decide to vote for or against). It’s a matter involving sovereignty. I sense a bit of resistance to the recommendation,” he said.

臨時国会:外国人参政権焦点に 政府・民主党、足並みの乱れ露呈--法案提出浮上
毎日新聞 2009年11月7日 東京朝刊







5 comments on “Mainichi: DPJ split over bill to give NJ permanent residents right to vote

  • Does anyone know if the proposed bill gives permanent residents the right to stand for election? Or will it be some kind of half measure thing?

  • According to this morning’s DY, the DPJ has postponed submission of the bill and it will have to wait until next year’s regular diet session to have another chance of being submitted. Other bills were given higher priority for submission this term.

  • “They include bills…… for special measures to cope with the new type of influenza…. The committee leaders confirmed that those bills should have top priority. ”

    Mmmmm….if they say so.
    Very sad news though.
    I do hope this will not just mean: post-poning = forgetting.
    Next time won’t there be some other priority bills to be passed….?
    This is called 流す…

  • Hi Debito:

    Here’s a follow-up to the original article submitted by HJ:

    Opinion split over giving permanent foreign residents local voting rights

    鳩山政権の通信簿:マニフェスト検証 2カ月目 「聖域」に修正のメス

    The part of interest in the J version is at the bottom:


    Note that opinion is split only in the the Hatoyama cabinet and among the LDP — in the public opinion poll that Mainichi conducted, the result was almost two-thirds in favor / one-third against.


    Opinion split over giving permanent foreign residents local voting rights

    In the House of Representatives election on Aug. 30 this year, a 21-year-old South Korean man in Japan born to a Japanese mother and South Korean father exercised his right to vote for the first time.

    A revision to the Nationality Law in 1984 permitted children born from 1985 onwards to hold dual nationality up until the age of 22 if one of their parents was Japanese. Still, the existence of people such as the 21-year-old, who has both dual nationality and the right to vote, is not widely known in Japan.

    Next year, the 21-year-old, who must choose between the two nationalities, plans to follow the path of his brother, who is two years his elder, and select Japanese citizenship.

    “I didn’t know my Korean name until my third year of elementary school, and I can’t speak Korean even now. I was teased about my Korean name in the past, and I have lots of Korean friends living in Japan, but my awareness as a Korean is, frankly speaking, low,” he says.

    In the Lower House election, the 21-year-old voted for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has pushed for local-election voting rights for long-term foreign residents. He attended several meetings with South Koreans in Japan, and though he was unsympathetic with their call to be given suffrage in exchange for their obligation to pay taxes, he voted for the DPJ as he wanted his friends to be given the right to vote.

    “The opponents (of voting rights for foreigners) say that Koreans living in Japan will cast anti-Japanese votes, but I don’t think so. If they are given voting rights, then voting from the perspective of being a South Korean in Japan will cease. They will vote while thinking about how they can improve their lives,” the 21-year-old said.

    There are about 910,000 foreigners in Japan who hold permanent residence, comprising some 420,000 special permanent residents from the former colonized Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, and 490,000 who have met special requirements such as residing in Japan for 10 years or more. It is estimated that there are 470,000 Koreans with permanent residence, more than half of the total.

    A proposal made by the DPJ’s federation of legislators in May last year suggested introducing voting rights only for residents from countries with which Japan has diplomatic relations, thereby excluding North Koreans. If the proposal materializes, then most of the foreign voters will be South Koreans, Chinese and Brazilians, who make up a large percentage of the foreign permanent residents in Japan.

    Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa and other party officials have pushed to give permanent foreign residents local voting rights, from both a historical perspective and the perspective of “fraternal” politics that the DPJ has promoted. Ozawa has called for the early submission of a bill to change the law, but the government’s priorities remain unclear. The move was incorporated in the party’s list of policies and its election promises, but was left out of its election manifesto.

    Tomomi Inada, a Liberal Democratic Party legislator who opposes giving foreign permanent residents voting rights, argues, “If local assembly members and heads supported by foreigners appear, then it will influence local Diet members. It will constrain Japan’s national interests.” This line of thinking is also deeply rooted in the DPJ.

    Fears have been raised that if suffrage is granted in areas such as Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, where foreigners account for 24 percent of the population, then it will lead to friction between supporters and opponents. This gives rise to the argument, “Japanese nationals should decide on the future of Japan — permanent foreign residents can gain suffrage by obtaining Japanese citizenship.”

    At the same time, Katsuhiko Okazaki, a graduate professor at Aichi Gakuin University, who supports voting rights for foreign permanent residents, points out, “There are South Koreans living in Japan who obtain Japanese citizenship to get all the rights, but there is still resistance to losing their South Korean nationality. If dual citizenship were granted, the problem would be solved all at once.”

    Okazaki says that the principles of lineage and exclusivism are deeply rooted in Japan, but the fact that there are already cases of dual citizenship, as is the case with South Koreans in Japan who have voting rights, shows that the concept of what constitutes a national has diversified. He adds that there have been changes in the sense of belonging that is associated with nationality.

    Next year marks 100 years since Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula. It is certain the issue of suffrage for foreigners will emerge as a major point of discussion.


    鳩山政権の通信簿:マニフェスト検証 2カ月目 「聖域」に修正のメス


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