外国人参政権 地方に限っても禍根を残す

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Oct. 10, 2009)
Suffrage for foreigners could court trouble
外国人参政権 地方に限っても禍根を残す(10月10日付・読売社説)

Giving foreign nationals the right to vote, even in local elections only, is problematic from the standpoints of what is stipulated in the Constitution and the fundamental roles of the state.

Regarding the granting of local suffrage to permanent foreign residents in Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Friday, "I personally want to come to a conclusion in a forward-looking manner."

Hatoyama's remark was made in response to a question put forward by a reporter from the South Korean media at a joint press conference held with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak after their meeting in Seoul.
"People's feelings and thoughts aren't necessarily unified," Hatoyama later added, apparently out of awareness that views on this issue are sharply divided in Japan.

The Democratic Party of Japan included the granting of local suffrage to permanent foreign residents in its basic policies when the party was formed in 1998. Besides Hatoyama, DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada are among party members who support the policy.


1995 ruling was clear-cut

The 1995 Supreme Court ruling on a lawsuit in which a group of South Korean residents in Japan sought local suffrage has stoked the arguments made by advocates of local suffrage for permanent foreign residents. The ruling's obiter dictum remarks said granting foreign residents local suffrage is not prohibited under the Constitution and that the matter concerns the nation's legislative policies.

However, the main part of the ruling said the people's right to select and dismiss public officials under Article 15 of the Constitution rests with "Japanese people," that is, Japanese nationals. The ruling also said that "residents"--people who elect heads of local governments and members of local assemblies as stipulated under Article 93 of the Constitution--refer to people who have Japanese nationality.

Citing only the obiter dictum, which is a nonlegally binding supportive argument, as legal grounds for foreign suffrage is absurd.

It is also a stretch to argue that opinions of foreign residents should be reflected in local public services by giving them the right to vote in local elections. This is because local governments are closely entwined in issues that pertain to the nation's basic policies.

The law regarding the nation's response to attacks by foreign forces and the law to protect people's lives and assets in such attacks and other emergencies both stipulate that the central and local governments should cooperate in such contingencies. It is not unfathomable that permanent foreign residents who are nationals of countries hostile to Japan could disrupt or undermine local governments' cooperation with the central government by wielding influence through voting in local elections.


ROK decision was for ROK

South Korea granted local suffrage to permanent foreign residents in 2005. So far only a handful of Japanese residents in South Korea have been given the right to vote there.

There are about 420,000 permanent foreign residents in Japan. Arguing that Japan should grant foreign residents local suffrage just because South Korea allows its foreign residents to vote is beside the point.

South Korea in February granted South Korean nationals living abroad the right to vote in national elections.

If Japan lets foreign residents vote in local elections, South Korean residents in Japan could vote for a president and parliamentary members of South Korea as well as for governors, mayors and local assembly members in Japan. Whether such dual voting rights should be permitted opens up another can of worms altogether.

If non-Japanese want to be granted suffrage, they should obtain Japanese nationality. That is the bottom line.

Taking rash steps on this issue must not be allowed as they could open the door to perilous problems in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2009)
(2009年10月10日01時19分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-10-10 11:02 | 英字新聞

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