Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates


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Hi Blog.  In the middle of the election period, here’s a surprising editorial from the Asahi — in support of NJ PR Suffrage!  The ruling DPJ dropped it from their manifesto, and most parties that took it up as an issue (LDP, Kokumin Shintou (rendered below as People’s New Party) and Tachiagare Nippon (i.e. Sunrise Party, hah)) used it to bash NJ and try to gain votes from xenophobia (didn’t matter; the latter two still did not gain seats from it).  Anyway, here’s the strongest argument made by mainstream Japanese media in support of it.  And it’s a doozy.  Thanks Asahi for injecting some tolerance into the debate.  Maybe it made a difference in voting patterns.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


EDITORIAL: Foreigners’ voting rights
Asahi Shimbun 2010/07/06 Courtesy of JK

The June 28 edition of the Sankei Shimbun wrote in its editorial that voters should pay close attention to the different arguments from political parties regarding “the framework of this country.” On this, we agree.

The point in question is whether to grant permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections. Since we can’t see any obvious differences between the two major parties on economic and foreign policies, foreign suffrage is one of the major issues that has split the nation.

In their election manifestoes, New Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party pledge to achieve foreign suffrage. Other parties, like the Liberal Democratic Party, the People’s New Party, the Sunrise Party of Japan and Your Party, are opposed to the change.

In contrast, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto says nothing about the issue. When the DPJ was formed, its party platform said foreign suffrage should be “realized quickly.” After gaining power, then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and then Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa were eager to make this happen.

But the DPJ’s coalition partner, the People’s New Party, and some local assemblies reject the idea. Even some DPJ members are against the move.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in the Diet, “While there is no change in the party’s position, there are different opinions that the parties must discuss.” With both Ozawa and Hatoyama gone, it seems that the engine behind foreign suffrage has stalled.

More than 2.2 million foreign residents are registered in Japan, and 910,000 of them have been granted permanent resident status. Japan is already a country comprising people with various backgrounds. It is appropriate to have those people rooted in their local communities to share the responsibility in solving problems and developing their communities.

It is also appropriate to allow their participation in local elections as residents, while respecting their bonds to their home nations.

In its new strategy for economic growth, the government says it will consider a framework for taking in foreigners to supplement the work force. To become an open country, Japan must create an environment that foreigners find easy to live in.

An Asahi Shimbun survey in late April and May showed that 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of foreign suffrage while 43 percent were against it.

Since public opinion is divided, the DPJ, which put the issue on the public agenda, should not waffle but should give steady and persuasive arguments to the public.

The LDP is raising the tone of its criticism, saying foreigners’ voting rights, along with the dual surname system for married couples, is a policy that will “destroy the framework of this country.” The party apparently wants to make the voting rights issue a major conflicting point between conservatives and liberals.

Some opponents express concerns about the negative effects on national security. However, this kind of argument can nurture anti-foreign bigotry and ostracism. It sounds like nothing more than an inward-looking call for self-preservation.

Some say foreigner suffrage goes “against the Constitution.” However, it is only natural to construe from the Supreme Court ruling of February 1995 that the Constitution neither guarantees nor prohibits foreigner suffrage but rather “allows” it.

The decision on foreign suffrage depends on legislative policy.

In an age when people easily cross national borders, what kind of society does Japan wish to become? How do we determine the qualifications and rights of people who comprise our country and communities? To what extent do we want to open our gates to immigrants? How do we control social diversity and turn it into energy?

Politicians need to discuss the suffrage issue based on their answers to these questions. The issue of foreign residents’ voting rights is a prelude to something bigger.

–The Asahi Shimbun, July 5 2010


朝日新聞 社説 2010年7月5日(月)















16 comments on “Asahi editorial supports NJ PR Suffrage, published during election-period debates

  • Japan is already a country comprising people with various backgrounds.
    Wow. That just made my day. Recognition of the truth at last!

  • They even included it in the Japanese version.


  • It is a good editorial but I don’t really care about voting rights for PR. Nothing will really change unless J government allows dual citizenship.
    Unless they are allowed to keep their Korean citizenship, the majority of Zainichi will never naturalize and there will be a significant population of second-class citizens.

  • PR voting rights are needed. Korea and China do not allow dual citizenship either, so Zainichi will need to be able to vote in Japan as PR unless they naturalize. If they naturalize, they lose Korean or Chinese citizenship so they are disadvantaged.

  • “It is a good editorial but I don’t really care about voting rights for PR. Nothing will really change unless J government allows dual citizenship.”

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: PR voting rights met with such an unbelievable backlash, can you possibly imagine what the opposition would be like for dual citizenship? Every bogus claim and fear tactic used for the suffrage issue would be expanded upon exponentially for the dual citizenship argument (if there ever was a debate). There is no conceivable way that this issue will be brought up and met with a positive response within, say, the next 20 years. We basically need the aging elite that rules this country to die and take their racist, irrelevant thinking with them to the grave.

    — Keep saying it.

  • Dual citizenship in Japan would highly benefit Brazilian immigrants, since Brazil recognizes dual citizenship. Many Brazilians would naturalize and enjoy dual citizenship. Sadly for Koreans, they would not benefit from Japan adopting dual citizenship. Korea forbids dual citizenship. Many Koreans who moved to the USA and got US citizenship were shocked to be stripped of Korean citizenship.

    When Japan overturns its 1984 citizenship law change that forbids dual citizenship, hopefully this will be an example so Korea can also allow dual citizenship. In the meantime, I hope Brazilian-Japanese can take advantage of a dual citizenship in Japan when it is passed. Let’s get to work on it.

  • “How do we control social diversity and turn it into energy?”

    Oh boy! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that little gem! Maybe, just maybe, if carefully nurtured, there might be room for an enlightened discussion on dynamic possibilities, not just fatalistic inevitabilities in Japan’s future. Wow, it might even involve the people, all of them, not just the loudest shouters! Japanese people and international residents are not stupid. They’d choose life over demise any day, if the dodderers in Government would get out of the way, or lay the foundations for that to happen. Gives me hope!

    Two miracles in two days, wow! Viva España!

  • Guillaume says:

    “can you possibly imagine what the opposition would be like for dual citizenship?”

    Well, isn’t it the role of lobbying organizations to promote their agenda and tirelessly argue for their cause? I now this won’t be easy, but we have to speak up at least for the mentalities to start changing.

    Actually Korea is changing very fast! (faster than Japan indeed). Dual citizenship is now allowed in limited cases (unfortunately most Zainichi won’t benefit because overseas Koreans need to be over 65 years-old). But at least some foreigners residing in Korea will be able to naturalize.

    04-21-2010 20:02 여성 음성 듣기 남성 음성 듣기
    Dual Citizenship to Be Allowed

    By Lee Tae-hoon
    Staff Reporter

    The National Assembly passed a revision Wednesday that will permit multiple citizenship to people meeting certain conditions, as part of efforts to prevent a brain drain and bring in talented foreigners.

    Under the revision, exceptionally talented foreign nationals will be able to obtain Korean citizenship without renouncing their own.

    Similar to naturalized foreigners, foreign residents with dual citizenship will be exempt from military service.

    Previously, the Korean government neither allowed dual citizenship nor immediately granted the privilege upon application.

    Only those who had lived in Korea for five years or longer, or were married to Korean nationals and had stayed here for over two years were allowed naturalization.

    Dual citizenship will be granted on the condition that those concerned take an oath not to exercise their rights as a foreign national while staying here.

    Foreigners married to Koreans are included on the list of people eligible for dual citizenship, along with Koreans who gained foreign nationality through marriage or adoption.

    Also included are overseas Koreans over 65 years old and Koreans who gained dual citizenship at birth, if they apply for the dual citizenship and take the oath before turning 22 years old.

    Unlike foreigners, young Korean males will be required to fulfill compulsory military service.

    However, the government will not give the privilege to so-called “anchor babies,” whose mothers deliberately give birth in a country offering birthright citizenship ― typically the United States ― before returning to raise their children in Korea.

    Critics, however, say the legislation may trigger a backfire from the Chinese community here as the government excluded Chinese, who have lived in Korea for several generations, from the list at the last minute before proposing the bill to the Assembly.

    Some 20,000 Chinese living here have refused to be naturalized because they strongly insist on keeping their original citizenship to maintain their cultural identity and keep relations with their ancestral homeland.

    Foreigners, who have divorced with Koreans but have lived in Korea with a child of their former spouse, are also ineligible for dual citizenship.

  • ‘Dual citizenship will be granted on the condition that those concerned take an oath not to exercise their rights as a foreign national while staying here.’

    Well it is a good thing that those rights hardly exist in Korea now isn’t it.

  • “Critics, however, say the legislation may trigger a backfire from the Chinese community here as the government excluded Chinese, who have lived in Korea for several generations, from the list at the last minute before proposing the bill to the Assembly.”

    Wow, imagine if Japan did something similar and excluded Koreans. They would scream “racism” loudly. Yet, they do it to the Chinese. I don’t think this is an example that Japan should follow. Dual citizenship in Japan should follow a different model. Asian nations seem to all hate dual citizenship, though it is very common in non-Asian nations. Is this just an Asian cultural trait?

    — I’d sooner put it down to history than to “Asianness”. More sophistication please.

  • Progressive agenda stuck in the mud
    DPJ getting nowhere on maiden names, foreigner voting rights

    The Associated Press

    Happily for Yoko Sakamoto, she didn’t have to argue with her husband — also a Sakamoto — about whose last name they’d use when they married.

    Not that the 47-year-old civil rights activist would have had much of an option: The law allows only one surname per family — customarily the man’s.

    “One’s last name is a key part of one’s self-identity,” Sakamoto said. “It’s wrong that any of us by law have to change surnames that we’ve used all our lives, and it is always the women who put up with the burden.”

    The Democratic Party of Japan promised a progressive agenda when it formed a government, ending 55 years of nearly unbroken conservative rule. The party began working on two bills: one that would allow married couples to keep separate surnames and another that would permit Korean permanent residents to vote in local-level elections.

    But preparations for both bills have stalled.

    Conservative politicians accuse the DPJ of pushing a radical agenda that would wreck family traditions and even weaken national security by granting the vote to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans and Taiwanese — without Japanese citizenship — and possibly other nationals too.

    Such changes “would destroy the country,” warned Sadakazu Tanigaki, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.

    While the debate over possible tax increases to tackle the burgeoning deficit dominated the campaign for last Sunday’s Upper House election, these secondary issues could have also swayed some voters.

    And the DPJ’s poor showing at the polls may have made it harder to move ahead on either bill.

    Japan is the only Group of Eight nation that requires married couples to have the same family name. China and South Korea also allow married women to have different surnames than their husbands.

    A growing number of Japanese women, including those who have advanced in corporate and academic ranks, want the same right. Many already use their maiden names as aliases at work.

    “The DPJ rule could be our tiny window of opportunity,” said Sakamoto, coleader of the activist group mNet, which supports changes to the Civil Code. “The question is whether we can tolerate diversity and create a society that equally treats people with different lifestyles and nationality, including married couples with different surnames and foreign residents.”

    But that window may already be closing.

    Strong opposition from the DPJ’s tiny coalition partner Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) has stalled moves to submit the bills to the Diet and the DPJ has quietly removed them from its list of campaign promises. The smaller party claims allowing women to retain their maiden names could undermine family unity and even cause more divorces.

    “I don’t understand the mentality of couples who marry to be together but prefer separate surnames,” said Shizuka Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto. “Do we want to see door signs showing various surnames written on them at each home?”

    Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, however, said recently she still plans to submit the already-drafted maiden names bill for Diet debate later this year.

    The current system “often one-sidedly imposes burdens on women, inconveniences their social activities, or causes the loss of their identity,” Chiba said. “I must say it poses a problem with the fundamental equality of men and women.”

    Only in rare cases do couples use the wife’s surname, maybe because she is an only child and there is pressure to carry on the family name, or if it benefits them financially.

    Last August, the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women urged Japan to “take immediate action to amend the Civil Code” and drop the one-surname requirement, calling the provision “discriminatory.”

    Akiko Orita has been married for more than 10 years, but because she didn’t change her name at marriage, she is classified in official records as “unregistered wife” of her husband, Yusuke Doi, who also supports the cause.

    “I don’t want to have to change my name,” said the 35-year-old assistant professor at Keio University. “Everyone should have a right to choose.”

    The DPJ has also sought to give the right to vote in local elections to 420,000 permanent residents, mostly Koreans and some Taiwanese. Most are descendants of wartime slave laborers who were forcibly brought to the country during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

    Despite being born in Japan, living here for decades and paying taxes, many such ethnic Koreans, known as “zainichi Korean,” chose not to take Japanese citizenship to retain their sense of ethnic identity or as a form of protest at Japan having stripped their families of their nationality after World War II. This disqualifies them from voting.

    DPJ leaders say the proposed reform is intended to redress the suffering historically inflicted on the Koreans. Officials are still debating whether to include another 490,000 foreign permanent residents, mostly Chinese but also Brazilians, Filipinos and Peruvians, in the bill.

    The bill has yet to be drafted, but it has already stirred up fears among some Japanese that it might influence local votes to undermine the national interest and security. Some say Koreans and Chinese residents may move en masse to districts overseeing disputed areas to influence decisions in a way that would weaken Japanese claims to several small islands between Japan and South Korea or China.

    Rightwing activists and conservative lawmakers have repeatedly rallied in Tokyo against any moves to grant foreign residents suffrage, saying only those who have obtained nationality should be allowed to vote.

    Government and media surveys show that the public is divided over both issues.

    “Many Japanese may not be quite ready for a change,” said Takao Toshikawa, an independent political analyst. “But a failure to pass the bills could mean the DPJ would lose voters, particularly young women” who have supported some of the party’s more liberal policies.

    Homemaker Chieko Kotani, 48, said she opposes a foreign suffrage bill because “the Chinese might take over” the disputed islets, but she backs the legal use of maiden names, which she wished had been the law when she wed 15 years ago.

    “I would have kept my maiden name, Kobayashi, which I still prefer,” she said.

  • I saw a poster in Asakusa next to Shin Okachimachi station that was advertising some politician. Though my kanji isn’t as good as many, I’m sure that the first sentence on it was that he was against voting rights for foreigners. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the content but if it is an anti gaijin poster, I’m saddened to see this crap is still acceptabe. I thought the big anti gaijin wave had passed somewhat. Silly me. Here’s the website.


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