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.
毎日新聞 2009年11月7日 東京朝刊