Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
I am a permanent foreign resident who wants the right to vote in Japan. First, it’s a matter of business. Paying taxes in this country means that every public salaried person in Japan is my employee and it is fitting that my employees be answerable to me. In a democracy accountability comes through the ballot box. It’s only natural that if you tax me, then you have an obligation to me. Second, it’s a matter of morality. I cannot vote in any country in the world, so it might be nice for me to taste this thing called democracy before I die. Third, it’s a matter of realpolitik. Foreign residents are a political resource, not a liability, and we will
support the party that supports us.
Conservative objections to granting the right to vote in local elections to permanent foreign residents are mostly excitement over the idea of it, because in practice the ‘foreign vote’ will have negligible effect since we are so few. Even if we are all blatantly partisan voters our numbers are too few to amount to a security matter, or to impinge on Japanese sovereignty. But even if we were of sufficient numbers to have a measurable effect in the polls, what of it? That’s what voting is supposed to accomplish - a measurable effect. The claim by conservatives that if we want to vote we ought to become naturalized citizens sounds reasonable until one realizes that granting of citizenship - like granting of permanent resident status - is largely an arbitrary decision by bureaucrats and as such amounts to a barely concealed delaying tactic. And if there is one thing Japanese adore it is procrastination.
Published on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 as “Stalling on foreign vote just putting off inevitable.”
The two stories that prompted this suffrage letter were printed on February 24th and it was then that the paper solicited letters on this topic. It took them a month-and-a-half to get to it. By early April I was preparing to write another letter enquiring about the lack of follow-up to the solicitation of letters on what must be a controversial topic that probably elicited many letters. Only two other letters were printed, both by Japanese, and typically their reasoning is weak, wrongly focusing on the issue of assimilating Korean residents instead of looking at the broader reality of foreign residents of Japan. The paper printed my letter without any changes to the text but with only some paragraphing changes. This is a re-written version of the letter on the same topic that I wrote to The Japan Times on February 4th and which that paper published on February 11th. I prefer this version. It’s better.