Japan Today: DPJ at odds with itself over PR Suffrage


Hi Blog. Oh well, never mind the DPJ trying to split New Komeito off from the LDP. Seems the Suffrage for Permanent Residents issue has set the DPJ against itself as well, according to Japan Today. This issue is not settled by any means (the DPJ is all over the map ideologically anyway, so this degree of dissent is quite normal, actually), so let’s see where the kerfuffle goes. But for all the people that say that Japan’s NJ demographics and labor issues are politically insignificant, we may in fact be seeing quite a few fault lines between old and new Japan after all… Arudou Debito


DPJ holds opposing meetings on foreigners voting in local elections
Japan Today/Kyodo News Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 07:04 EST
Courtesy of Adam Wallace

TOKYO — Members of the Democratic Party of Japan on Wednesday held two separate meetings, one involving lawmakers and proxies who support allowing foreigners with permanent residence status to vote in local elections and another involving those opposed to the idea.

While DPJ members emphasize that they will not allow the issue to create an intra-party division, the development apparently shows that members of the largest opposition party do not see eye-to-eye on the matter.

About 80 DPJ lawmakers and proxies attended an inaugural meeting of a group supporting the idea shortly past noon, while approximately 50 gathered in the afternoon for a study session opposing it.

Both gatherings, held in the Diet building, were attended by 23 parliamentarians each.

DPJ Vice President Katsuya Okada, who was elected chairman of the group supporting the idea, expressed his readiness to work on drafting a bill to grant local suffrage to permanent residents for submission to the Diet during the ongoing regular session through June.

“This issue has been an ardent wish for the DPJ for many years. There are various opinions within the party, but we want to gain the understanding of many and to present the bill” to parliament, Okada said at the outset of the group’s meeting.

In the other gathering, Kozo Watanabe, the DPJ’s top adviser, said it was necessary to discuss the issue cautiously while seeking unity among all party members.

“It is a very important issue. We will not start out with a conclusion but rather study how we can gain the understanding of the people,” Watanabe said.

Those attending the meeting opposing the idea decided to request that the issue be discussed by the DPJ’s shadow cabinet.

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa has expressed support for the idea to allow permanent residents to vote in local elections and made remarks to that effect when he met with an envoy of South Korea’s President-elect Lee Myung Bak in Tokyo in mid-January.

The South Korean government has repeatedly called on Japan to allow permanent residents of Korean descent, who make up the bulk of foreign residents in Japan, to vote in local elections. South Korea allowed foreigners who have lived in the country for more than three years after obtaining permanent residency to vote in local elections for the first time in June 2006. (emphasis added)

While many members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to granting local suffrage to permanent residents, its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, has long pushed for the move.

LDP lawmakers who oppose the idea argue it could violate the Constitution, saying the supreme law gives the Japanese people the “inalienable right” to choose electorates in Japan.

Under current laws, only citizens with Japanese nationality aged 20 or over are eligible to vote in local and national elections.

Some municipalities in Japan have passed ordinances to allow foreign citizens with permanent resident status to vote in local referendums. (Kyodo News)

9 comments on “Japan Today: DPJ at odds with itself over PR Suffrage

  • Excuse my ignorance, but don’t some places already allow NJ residents to vote in a limited capacity? My city sent me a postcard last year explaining the voter registration and which issues I could vote on. Registration was only during a short time during the day (it can’t be TOO convenient) and I wasn’t able to make it to register. I pitched the card and didn’t really think about it until the big hubub about NJ suffrage came up.

  • No real surprise, there. Racists have always opposed the idea of universal suffrrage, believing it to be a right held by them and them alone. As one person one vote makes us all equal, it can never be allowed, even though it is the moral and just thing to do. But then again, when have racists like the opposers to extending the franchise to all of us ever cared about faireness, justice, or decency?

  • I like the idea of letting permanent residents vote, but I don’t think I would be so quick to say those that oppose it are racists. I think it’s quite reasonable to say that only citizens are allowed to vote. If you feel so strongly about voting you can become a naturalized Japanese similar to Debito. Race really has nothing to do with this decision at all, and I think that it’s great that they are actually addressing this issue when they technically don’t need to.
    This being said, having permanent residents have a say in local affairs is a great thing in my opinion. As permanent residents it would be a great help to work together to improve our communities.

    To further this debate, I recommend watching this 10min. clip from that 太田総理 television show. This has both sides of the argument and also has NJ on the side opposing suffrage for NJ:

  • i agree with icarus in that i dont think japan is getting enough credit for at least debating this..
    if you even suggested this in the us you would be voted out of office right away,although this is common practice in europe(although just eu citizens in a number of countries) ,new zealand,and recently introducted in s korea.apart from nz,ireland,some english speaking countries record is dreadful on this,nothing in canada,
    australia nothing (even repealed prev laws allowing it for cert countries in 1984), the uk allows full nat voting for commonwealth and irish citizens ,they can be candidates,and of course local for eu.
    though nothing for japanese.

    having said that,i believe that this proposal would not have come up without the presence of the zainichi-and it may end up being just them allowed to vote.

  • Christopher says:

    Though there are some constitutional restrictions (to prevent discrimination), in the United States the rules on who gets to vote are not set nationally. There are actually a few (small) cities – notably some DC suburbs with large numbers of diplomatic personnel – in the United States that let foreign residents vote.

    I have heard it suggested from time to time for other large cities, but oftentimes the energy that might go into such an effort is instead focused on citizenship drives. In the United States the practice of actively courting the immigrant vote – and part of it is getting the immigrants to become citizens – goes back more than a hundred years.

    I am sort of ambivalent on this myself. I don’t understand why people who live in a country wouldn’t want to acquire its citizenship – it seems really foolish to e.g. desire South Korean citizenship when you’ve lived in Japan your whole life. But I despise the LDP and I expect that citizens of other countries would overwhelmingly vote against the LDP, so… (This is BTW precisely the reason I wouldn’t expect the LDP to support it.)



  • my thoughts on christopher’s statement

    “I don’t understand why people who live in a country wouldn’t want to acquire its citizenship – it seems really foolish to e.g. desire South Korean citizenship when you’ve lived in Japan your whole life.”

    maybe – just maybe – it can be attributed to what the zainichis have gone (and currently go) through in japan. There have been anecdotes of them and the chinese receiving the shortest end of the stick, among all other ethnicities. and there seems to be this sticky paradigm that even if you have acquired a citizenship, you will never be truly considered one of them – those who are born of pure japanese blood. (in my case, i have met a lot of mothers here who shared accounts of the troubles that their “half-japanese” children encounter at school i.e. the incessant bullying and insults; hence, most have opted to raise their children in their home countries)

  • I think this is interesting though because although I don’t think it should be forced on them, if more zainichi were becoming citizens their voice (i.e. their vote) would become stronger and stronger. And when I say vote, I don’t just mean at a local level. If the national voter turn-out rate is around 40% and all of the zainichi showed up to vote, we could see some pretty big changes since they represent the largest group of NJ in the country.

  • I think that if one is living, working, paying taxes, contributing to the local economy, ie food, fuel, housing etc, and qualifies for PR, then said person should at least have a say in how his/her taxes are spent. Otherwise why pay the tax?

    Take my money but don’t question me on how it is spent!!??

    If “my” views are not welcomed, because as #6 highlights not being “one of them”, then clearly my money for said taxes are not be welcomed too.

    Can you imagine going into a Japanese restaurant eating the food and the getting up to walk out without paying? The restaurateur would demand payment for “services/food provided” and then the customer saying “thanks for the food, but I’m not Japanese, so why must I pay”?


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