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Tokyo’s Musashino rejects proposal to let foreign residents vote

The city assembly of Musashino in Tokyo on Tuesday rejected a proposed ordinance that would have allowed foreign residents to vote in local referendums.

When first submitted, the proposal divided opinions in the assembly. It also drew flak online, with critics saying it could be a step toward granting foreign residents suffrage in national elections.

In Japan, only two cities have granted voting rights to foreigners in referendums without special conditions — Zushi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Toyonaka in Osaka Prefecture.

Musashino is a suburban area with a population of nearly 150,000. The popular shopping and residential district of Kichijoji is among its neighborhoods.

The city assembly’s general affairs committee gave the green light to the controversial proposal last week.

Musashino Mayor Reiko Matsushita submitted a proposal to the assembly in November for holding referendums that would allow foreigners aged 18 or above to vote in them if they have lived in the city for at least three months — the same conditions that would apply to Japanese residents.

“I am aiming to create a city that accepts diversity,” Matsushita said during the committee’s deliberations. “Those who have just come to Japan are also part of the community.”

Assembly members with ties to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan supported the proposal, while members associated with the Liberal Democratic Party opposed it, with one arguing the plan had been hastily decided.

“Explanations to citizens have been insufficient,” the LDP assembly member said.

Other than the cities of Zushi and Toyonaka, about 40 municipalities in Japan allow foreigners to vote in referendums, but with some conditions applied such as having the status of permanent residency.

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