List of countries with voting rights for non-citizens, with Japan of the group the absolutist outlier.


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Hi Blog. Although the issue may be moot due to the DPJ suspending the submission of PR NJ suffrage “for the time being”, here’s an essential fact of the case — what other countries allow non-citizens to vote, and at what level, as of 2006.  Click on the image to expand in your browser.  Courtesy of Dr SN.

As you can see, of the select countries (even the US has some local rights for non-citizens), only Japan is absolutist in terms of this sector of civil rights.  And the fact that the Japan-born Zainichi “generational foreigners” are also excluded makes Japan a further outlier.’s stance in support of NJ PR suffrage here.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo

17 comments on “List of countries with voting rights for non-citizens, with Japan of the group the absolutist outlier.

  • Well, Japan has proved itself to be truly “unique”, lol.

    I think I ll print this form out, keep it in my pocket, and hand it to people standing by any politicians or other making speeches against voting rights for tax paying NJs in my vicinity.

    Can you whip up a Japanese version?
    Just the headings, and “nihon”.

    No taxation without representation.

    — The original version is in Japanese. Get Tanaka’s book. Here it is on Amazon.

  • I think countries that limit local suffrage to EU and Scandinavian citizens should be marked in black circles too. That’s a big difference compared to Japan’s proposal, which has no such nationality limits.

  • What was the criteria for a particular country being included on/excluded from the list?

  • Wondering why certain countries like Germany are not on the list.

    — I wondered about that too.

  • Just thought you’d be interested in this, Kristina Keneally is the Premier of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. (That’s where Sydney is for those who don’t know). The position of Premier is the equivalent of Governor in the USA. She was born in New Mexico. Still has a very strong accent, not a problem to the voters.

    — Source please.

    And please stick to the point. Is she an Australian citizen, or still only an American citizen? If the latter, your point is germane to this post. But you’ve got to make that clearer.

  • Firstly, my apologies, not aware at the strict criteria to post here.
    First US born to be elected to such a position. Born Toledo, Ohio 1969. Mother Australian and father US serviceman. Moved to Australia 1n 1994. Became an Australian citizen in 2000.

    — Then it’s not the same issue. Not a matter of strict criteria to post here. More a matter of reading comprehension.

  • Unfortunately a lot of the information on this chart doesn’t really seem to be too helpful for making the point that some countries allow foreigners to vote in elections. The reason I say this is that the majority of these examples are limited to certain regional blocs, such as EU residents and Scandinavians. And the American example, if I’m reading the chart right, is limited to a handful of local governments.

    There’s really nothing like the EU out here, so it would be easy for someone opposed to foreigner suffrage to argue that there’s no real relevance to Japan’s situation.

    — They would anyway, because after all “Japan is unique”. All I am doing here is providing information that we have thus far lacked in the debate, for the record. Interpret it as you will.

  • sorry,but this is a dreadful chart.
    for a start including countries that dont exist (or have national elections)-england- and then saying uk citizens can vote in england is ridiculous.
    it seems only concerned with english speaking countries and eu citizens rights,and disregards citizens of the majority of the worlds citizens (eg in uk , commonwealth citizens can vote in all elections and be candidates).
    its a pity because as debito says japan is an absolutist outlier in this case.
    there are many sources to show this,but this isnt one of them.

  • New South Wales Premier is not the equivalent of Governor, but the leader of the house of representatives in that state. She has not been elected. She ousted her predecessor in a party room vote. She is a citizen. It remains to be seen how her accent will play with the electorate, or if she is competent enough, as her two recent predecessors were not, to maintain her parties confidence as leader until a statewide poll is called.

    Anyway, back on point, it’s pretty damning of Japan really, but not surprising. I’ve been working in Japan seven years, at the same schools for three, yet I got asked again the other day by a staff member if I’m going “home” after this school year ends. Hell, this is home now. I haven’t lived in my “home” town for over a decade and won’t be ever going back, for simple economic reasons.

    Japan is “home” to me now, as much of one as any place, but 95% of the people I interact with daily are clueless that this mindset could ever be possible. A say in how my tax dollars are spent and by whom would be nice, but it’s this closed mindedness that tells me A) noone who I could vote for if ever allowed would be worth voting for, as they wouldn’t represent my peculiar interests anyway, and B) Its time to split before I become one of them. The closed mindedness hasn’t crushed my spirit yet. And so one day, I’ll leave this “home” too, for a place more Inclusive and welcoming.

  • I’m with Adamw on the ‘England’ entries in the chart – England has not been a country since the 1707 Act of Union.

    I’m also puzzled by the two ‘England’ entries – there is conflict between the entries: in the first one non-nationals have no privileges at the National Level, in the second some non-nationals do have rights.

    An interesting aside to this is that in the UK, citizens of the Irish Republic are accorded almost all the full rights of UK Citizens – and the UK is still standing 61 years after that right was granted (prior to that they had rights as British Subjects). I wonder if Japan would consider something similar for all its Korean nationals?

  • “Scandinavian countries” is most likely to be Nordic countries.

    Graham, only speaking about “Scandinavian” countries (although it is supposed to be Nordic countries) the circle is correct. After 2 (Finland) or 3 years of residency any nationality can vote in local and regional elections.

  • While I agree listing England is at best rather odd, note that it does have a different legal system from Scotland, so there are generally two sets of basically parallel laws which may differ in some ways. I’m not aware of differences regarding voting, however.

    (I’ve yet to meet a Japanese person who knows the difference between England and the UK anyway.)

  • james annan,

    i cant understand your post-legal system is irrelevant.
    there are no national elections in england and no national parliament.
    as ep lowe says,more interesting is that any commonwealth citizen (and ireland) can become Pm in uk and have full voting rights.

    the argument that you should become a citizen to have voting rights is valid on one level.
    however,if you say that then you have create a positive atmosphere towards naturalization,and give automatic nationality to those born in the country (as in us and others),or allow dual nationality.
    japan doesnt do this-so i find kameis citizen argument disingenuous.
    also why should zainichi whos descendents had their j nationality taken away have to take it again?

  • E.P. Lowe,

    That is exactly what I would counter with when it comes to the bizarre paranoid portents of doom offered by the right-wingers. The UK is the perfect example of why that fear falls flat on its face.

    Not only do all citizens of the Republic of Ireland get automatic permanent residency status in the UK (as well as the right to vote in local elections), but they can also occupy a seat in the House of Lords. Roughly 10% of the British population has at least one Irish grandparent, and there are millions of Irish people resident in the country.

    This is a country which we have a dark and shameful history with, have wronged many times over, and where the conflicts have only just died down. Not only could all 5 million people in Ireland theoretically move to the UK to enact their revenge by ballot, but about 20 – 40 million Irish descendants around the world could claim Irish citizenship and do so too.

    Technically possible, as the Uyoku say, but no less laughably absurd a fear, and certainly not something that has happened to us.

  • I think England actually is a country. As I understand it, the United Kingdom is comprised of four countries – Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland – while also standing as a country in it’s own right. […] I’m actually more confused as to why England is in the table twice, rather than why it’s there at all. Is that a mistake or am I being thick?

  • Rob,

    it is a bit confusing – I prefer to call the constituent parts of the UK ‘Nations’ – but whatever you call them they are not countries in the most common sense of the word – they are not sovereign.


    Don’t fret too much over Ireland – we did as much damage to ourselves with our penchant for internecine warfare as was done by Westminster neglect (IMHO, of course).

    — Back on topic, please.

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