Musashino City Council: Listening to Citizens, Acting in the Interest of National Security

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Musashino city council is expected to act in the national interest and reject a proposed ordinance that would allow foreign nationals to vote in local referendums.

The local government office in the city of Musashino in western Tokyo has prepared a draft regulation that, if approved, would give foreigners living in the city the right to vote. The city council has a duty to act responsibly and reject the proposal.

The city council’s general affairs committee adopted a legislative proposal on Dec. 13 that, if approved, would allow voting in municipal referendums without distinguishing between Japanese nationals and foreign residents. It must be voted on in the plenary session of the city council on December 21, 2021.

If approved, it would be the third of its kind in Japan, following similar ordinances introduced in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

The proposed rule would give Japanese residents as well as foreign nationals in Musashino, including students and technical trainees, the right to vote in referendums if they have lived in the city for three months or more and are 18 years of age. or more.

Questioning its constitutionality, a group of Musashino citizens filed a petition with the General Affairs Committee, claiming the local bill “would lead to foreign residents being granted the right to vote for all purposes” . A member of the Komeito Assembly (partner of the ruling national coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party) who opposed the project, probed the city’s position, asking if the proposal was not simply a political maneuver .

The city government has taken a position that the proposal meets the aspirations of local residents and falls short of granting the right to vote. As the mayor of Musashino, Reiko Matsushita, said during a session of the assembly, “Foreigners are also members of the community, and they should have the right to vote in our local referendums”.

Responding to questions, a senior city official denied that there was a potential for foreign nationals voting on local issues to be used politically, saying “there are great barriers to foreign residents participating in a referendum “.

Although the official stressed that a referendum can only be put into effect if the signatures of a quarter of the city’s eligible voters are collected, the rule also leaves it up to residents to decide what topics to address during the vote. Referendum. But should we not also consider the risk of a local referendum taking up a question of national security or energy questions?

Although votes in local referendums are not legally binding, the city assembly and the mayor of the jurisdiction must respect their results. Therefore, we cannot put aside fears that the will of foreign residents may influence the political process.

It is also difficult to understand what led to the presentation of the draft ordinance.

The city government insists it has gone to great lengths to understand the views of residents through measures such as soliciting public comment. However, it cannot be said that the residents were sufficiently informed on the matter. No more than 10 residents attended the city government-sponsored meeting to exchange views on the referendum, which was held during the COVID-19 state of emergency in August.

Meanwhile, citizens critical of the measure who spoke at the General Affairs Committee meeting say they have collected 24,000 signatures in the streets and online from citizens opposed to the referendum.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that foreigners were prohibited from engaging in political activities that could influence political decision-making in Japan. The draft ordinance of the city of Musashino, which would effectively grant the right to vote to foreign nationals, would appear unconstitutional.

If the proposed rule is approved, its ripple effect could spread to other municipalities. Musashino city council must consider the broader perspective and vote definitively against the project.

(Read it Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese on this link.)

Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun


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