Japan Times: Parties split on issues of NJ PR suffrage


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More good coverage on issues that matter to the NJ community by the Japan Times:  Where the parties stand on one of the most fundamental rights that can be granted to anyone:  the right to vote.  Including those NJ who were born and raised here.  This issue is quite unnecessary (given that even talking about immigration in public is taboo), yet Hatoyama is making an issue of it.  Good.  Again, this election could change everything.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

The Japan Times Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009
Parties split on foreigner suffrage
By MASAMI ITO Staff writer


Prime Minister Taro Aso and Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama displayed clear differences Monday in their parties’ positions on whether to allow foreigners with permanent residency to vote in local races.

During an open debate hosted by the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Aso said his Liberal Democratic Party does not favor immediately giving foreigners local-level suffrage.

“(Foreigners’) right to vote is a big issue and we are not fully in agreement with those who are calling for granting suffrage (to foreigners) immediately,” Aso said, refusing to elaborate.

But Hatoyama said it is now time to consider granting foreigners voting rights at the local level.

“There are pros and cons and the DPJ is in the process of unifying its opinion right now,” Hatoyama said. “But considering the future, I think that the time has come to take a positive step.”

Whether to grant foreigners suffrage has become a contentious issue in the political world. While the conservative ranks of the LDP are strongly opposed, its coalition partner New Komeito is actively promoting this right.

Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), which is expected to join hands with the DPJ if the main opposition party ousts the LDP-New Komeito coalition Aug. 30, has sided with the LDP view on this issue.

“Giving foreigners local-level suffrage is a major issue that could shake the existence of the nation, and we are against it,” said Kokumin Shinto leader Tamisuke Watanuki, a veteran lawmaker who used to belong to the LDP.

Foreign nationals currently do not have the right to vote, and permanent foreign residents, especially Korean descendants of those who lived in Japan before and during the war and were forced to take Japanese citizenship at that time, have been fighting for local-level suffrage.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Immigration Bureau, there were more than 910,000 foreign nationals registered as permanent residents at the end of 2008.


6 comments on “Japan Times: Parties split on issues of NJ PR suffrage

  • If you are a legal citizen, then you should have the right to vote, as it is in the United States. Is that not the case in Japan?

    — You can become a citizen by birth in the US. Not the case in Japan. Hence the couple hundred thousand people here who are born here but remain “foreigners” for generations: the Zainichi.

  • “Giving foreigners local-level suffrage is a major issue that could shake the existence of the nation, and we are against it”

    910,000 permanent residents / 127,767,994 total population (2005) = 0.7 %

    Wow, that’s one weak nation you’ve got there, Mr Watanuki!

  • Tornadoes28, I believe the issue is not one of whether or not citizens can vote (I believe they can,) but whether or not non-citizens with permanent residency can vote, especially the “special permanent resident” zainichis as mentioned above.

    Incidentally, I understand that in America permanent residents (“green card” holders) cannot vote. Other countries vary, but I think I’ve seen at least one politician before use this as justification for not letting PR-holders in Japan vote. Presumably, all PR-holders come from America.

    Seriously, I want a follow-up from Mr. Watanuki. Shake the existence of the nation in what way? Is there some specific fear associated with this?

  • Michael Weidner says:

    I think the case here is this: most people in Japan, as in the citizens, assume that we have voting rights. Every single person whom I have talked to (which is a lot; from educators, to private business people) assumes that I was able to vote in the coming election. Every single one. We pay taxes like everyone else, we work hard like everyone else, and we live here just like regular people. Yes, I do agreee that you should be a citizen in order to vote, as in most countries, that is what is required for the right to vote. However, the process of becoming a citizen in this country without getting married is next to impossible and arbitrary (unless you’re an entertainer or sports figure). Thus, I believe that those who have proved they are going to be here for a while should have the right to vote. Voting is one of the strongest ways for your voice to be heard. As of the broadcast news last night, only 15% of those under 30 years of age said they were going to go vote. If all these people are not willing to vote, then perhaps the right to vote should be given to those who actually will. I know that if I had the right to vote here, I’d be one of the first in line at the poling station.

    — For the record, you don’t have to be married to naturalize (it sure helps with PR, however). But it’s tough and arbitrary anyway, in my experience.

  • So wait, what exactly is the problem? I thought that the Zainichi couldn`t vote at first, but my teacher told me today that they were too proud to give up their nationality to nationalize, so they couldn`t vote. Why don`t they naturalize, so that they could just vote?
    What do they lose? Debito, you can vote right? Not just local, but for prime minister too?

    — I can vote in local and national elections in Japan (we don’t vote for a prime minister; we vote for a party that will choose him or her).

    As for your source of information, I suggest you talk to some Zainichis about their lives here, not rely on second-hand information about minorities. It’s certainly not as simple as your teacher says.


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