Musashino assembly panel OKs bill on foreign national voting rights

An assembly committee of the city of Musashino in Tokyo approved on Monday a draft ordinance aimed at allowing foreign residents to vote in local referendums.

The general affairs committee of the assembly passed the proposal, which was submitted by the city government, by a majority vote.

The draft ordinance is expected to be approved at a plenary meeting of the assembly on Dec. 21, sources familiar with the situation said.

If the ordinance is passed, it will be the third of its kind in Japan, after similar ordinances introduced in Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture, according to the Musashino government.

In Monday’s voting, the draft ordinance was approved eventually by the decision of the committee chair after a tie vote among six committee members.

Before the voting, an assembly member belonging to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said that it is natural for Musashino, which respects diversity, to allow its foreign residents to vote in local referendums.

On the other hand, an assembly member of the Liberal Democratic Party said that it is nonsense to think foreign nationals’ participation in referendums on the same level as Japanese nationals.

The draft ordinance calls for allowing both Japanese and foreign nationals age 18 or older who have lived in the city for at least three months to vote in referendums.

The city will hold a referendum whenever it plans a merger with another municipality. If the required number of signatures are collected, a request to conduct a referendum can be made for issues other than municipal mergers.

Referendum results will not be legally binding.

In November, Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita said that there is no need to decide the eligibility to vote in referendums by nationality.

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