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Saitama governor opposes giving local suffrage to foreigners.

SAITAMA, Japan, Jan. 19 Kyodo

Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda said Tuesday he is opposed to a planned bill aimed at granting permanent foreign residents in Japan the right to vote in local gubernatorial, mayoral and assembly elections.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is considering tabling a bill to that end during the ongoing 150-day regular session of the Diet.

''I have long been opposed to such a bill. I don't think it is a matter to be decided by a majority of votes (in parliament,)'' Ueda told a regular news conference.

Ueda, who was once a member of the House of Representatives from the Democratic Party of Japan currently headed by Hatoyama, said he cannot understand why third-, fourth-, or even fifth-generation foreign residents would not seek Japanese nationality. He was apparently referring to Korean residents in Japan.

Ueda said Japan's national security can be the focal point of a local election in the country, citing the upcoming mayoral election in the city of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, where the long-delayed relocation of a U.S. military base is the main election theme. Campaigning for Nago's mayoral election kicked off Sunday with the voting set for next Sunday.

''As (the issue of national security) would dominate the country's destiny, careful deliberations must be made to decide if local suffrage should be granted to foreign residents,'' he said.

Several municipality heads expressed their opinions on the matter last week, with Kobe Mayor Tatsuo Yada voicing support for the bill by saying, ''There is no need to study the matter in a negative manner.''

''Kobe is an international city where (Korean) residents contribute to activating the regional economy,'' the mayor said last Thursday.

In contrast, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday he is ''utterly opposed.'' Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita expressed his opposition on Thursday, saying, ''My belief is that voters with Japanese nationality should cast their ballots. I hope the Diet will conduct careful deliberations if such a bill is submitted.''

Ruling coalition lawmakers have said the Hatoyama Cabinet plans to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session which started Monday.

But strong reservations remain within the DPJ-led coalition bloc.

Hatoyama said last week, ''While I believe I can gain understanding (from within the government), this is something we are in the middle of considering...It's my understanding that various things are being weighed because (this year) marks 100 years since Japan annexed Korea.''

Residents of Korean descent comprise most of the permanent foreign residents in the country. Japan grants special permanent resident status to people from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan who have lived in the country since the time of Japan's colonial rule over the areas, and also to their descendants.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jan 25, 2010
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