The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has started discussing the issue of granting voting rights in local elections for “special permanent residents,” but only those from nations that have diplomatic relations with Japan.
Those affected by the possible change are mainly South Koreans who were stripped of Japanese nationality after World War II and their offspring. Foreign residents in Japan currently have no voting rights.
The DPJ wants to narrow the scope of those eligible to win over opponents and pass a co-sponsored, lawmaker-initiated bill on foreign suffrage.
“By limiting (the voters) to special permanent residents, it will be easier to obtain approval of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito,” said a member of the lawmakers group in the DPJ studying the issue.
The intraparty group on promoting the legal status of permanent foreign residents is headed by Kansei Nakano.
A bill drawn up by the DPJ in 2009 said eligible voters would have to come from countries with diplomatic relations to Japan or equivalent regions, which covered a wide range of people with permanent residency status.
The tighter rules on eligibility would exclude most countries other than South Korea, including North Korea, which has no diplomatic relations with Japan.
In 1999, the LDP, New Komeito and the now-defunct Liberal Party formed a coalition government with plans to grant local-election voting rights to permanent foreign residents.
After the DPJ took power, a bill to grant foreign suffrage, supported by former party leader Ichiro Ozawa, was under consideration. But shortly before it was to be submitted to the Diet, the legislation was blocked by opposition from coalition partner the People's New Party.
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