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Friday, September 03, 2010

Foreigners with Permanent Residency Able to Vote in DPJ Presidential Election

民衆党総選挙外国人参政権

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)'s presidential election is scheduled to take place on Sept. 14, and, thanks to a provision in the party's constitution, permanent foreign residents who have registered as members or supporters of the DPJ will be able to vote.

The election is between current Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa, who is the most powerful politician in Japan.

The DPJ is the majority party, and therefore the winner of the Party election will become the prime minister. This means in effect that the 900,000 permanent foreign residents in Japan may have some sway in the outcome of the election.

Not all of those are eligible to vote - you have to be 18 or older and either a registered party member or a "supporter" - so it statistically unlikely that foreigners will cast the deciding vote. (Moreover, as noted above, those who have yet to register with the DPJ as either a member or supporter will not be eligible to vote in the upcoming election.)

The right wing in Japan is predictably up in arms about this turn of events. Both the Sankei Shinbun and Yomiuri Shinbun have editorialized about the dangers of foreigners influencing the choice of the prime minister. The majority of Japan's permanent foreign residents are Koreans, who make up more than 500,000 of the total.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party does permit all party members to participate in its party elections - but limits membership to Japanese nationals.

The DPJ's constitution however states that anybody aged 18 or older can become "party members or supporters, including Japanese living abroad and permanent foreign residents of Japan" - and all are eligible to vote in the DPJ election.

To join the Party as a member costs 6,000 for one year; supporters pay only 2,000 yen. Both have voting rights.

It is possible to register online. Doing so now will allow you to vote in the next election - not on September 14th. Elections are generally held every two years.

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