Besides making the freeways here actually “free” — a policy that’s received surprisingly little support once people realized the horrific traffic jams that would likely ensue — Prime Minister Hatoyama’s government appears to be moving ahead with a plan to give foreigners in Japan with permanent residence status the right to vote in local elections. The idea is to make foreigners who embrace living permanently in Japan feel more like a part of society as the country comes to grips with its new role in the 21st century. Much as I’d enjoy being able to vote for local politicians then blog about it, I don’t think for a moment that this plan will actually go anywhere due to Constitutional and other concerns, and everyone from a group of prefectural governors to the Capcom game company (go figure) has come out against the idea. For the record, this proposal isn’t really about gaijin like me at all, since 91% of the “foreigners” holding permanent residence status here are zainichi Koreans, descendents from the Koreans who lived and worked in Japan mostly from 1910 through the end of World War II. Nearly all of these people were born in Japan and often don’t speak Korean, yet for historical and cultural reasons that are difficult for me to fathom go through life holding a passport from South or North Korea, despite the fact that they can become Japanese citizens very easily. It speaks volumes of Japan’s society that they could have a national discussion about a topic like this without actually naming the group that the legislation is really about.
Should foreigners here have the right to vote? The DPJ says yes.