Musashino assembly rejects ordinance on foreigners’ voting rights

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The assembly of the city of Musashino in Tokyo at a plenary meeting Tuesday voted down a proposed ordinance for allowing foreign residents to vote in referendums in the city.

Although the general affairs committee of the assembly passed the ordinance Dec. 13, assembly members opposing it outnumbered those in favor in the vote at the plenary meeting. Some of the opponents voiced concerns over granting political franchise to foreigners while others said the move is premature because of a lack of public awareness.

The proposed ordinance called for allowing both Japanese and foreigners aged 18 or over living in Musashino for at least three months to vote in local referendums. It also stipulated, among other things, that a referendum must be held if the city plans to merge with another municipality.

If adopted, the local ordinance would have been the third of its kind in Japan, after those in the city of Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, and in the city of Toyonaka in the western prefecture of Osaka.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, a caucus led by the Liberal Democratic Party, Japan’s ruling party, criticized the draft ordinance as giving political franchise to foreigners in a broad sense. A caucus led by Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP, also opposed the ordinance, saying that it has not won citizens’ understanding.

In talks with reporters after the vote, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita pledged to have “full-fledged discussions with citizens and members of the assembly,” expressing her eagerness to propose the ordinance to the assembly again.

On Dec. 9, a group of conservative LDP lawmakers expressed opposition to Musashino’s ordinance, saying in a statement that it would lead to “easily granting foreigners rights equivalent to suffrage.”