OSAKA — The Osaka Prefectural Assembly adopted a resolution early Friday urging the central government to grant long-term foreign residents in the country the right to run and vote in local elections.
“Currently, 210,000 foreign residents from 144 countries live as members of the local communities in the prefecture. It is natural and welcome that such people participate in community-making and contribute to the communities,” says the resolution, which was adopted at the end of a marathon assembly session that dragged on past midnight Thursday.
Osaka Prefecture is one of the few local administrative bodies with a substantial foreign population that had not adopted such a resolution.
The Supreme Court ruled in February 1995 that the Constitution does not forbid the central government from enacting a law granting such rights at the local level and that it is up to national policy to determine if those rights can be granted to long-term foreign residents. “Having considered the ruling and the meaning of the Constitution and regional governments, it is important and necessary as a member of international society that our country guarantees to foreign residents some form of participation in local politics,” it says.
The move came during the last assembly session before the members’ terms expire in April.
As of the end of February, 1,383 local assemblies nationwide, including all municipalities in Osaka except the prefectural assembly, had adopted similar resolutions.
The prefectural assembly’s motion, however, will have a greater impact than those of other regions because more than 180,000 Korean residents, out of 670,000 nationwide, reside in Osaka, according to Chung Kwi Hwan, a member the Osaka chapter of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), a pro-Seoul group of ethnic Koreans in this country.
More than 80 percent of foreign residents in the Kansai region have permanent residency, while in Tokyo, the figure is about 40 percent, Chung said.
Osaka was the only prefecture besides Hiroshima with more than 10,000 foreign residents that had not adopted such a resolution, according to Mindan.
In September 1993, the Kishiwada Municipal Assembly in southern Osaka Prefecture became the first local government to adopt such a resolution in the country. “We have been asking the prefectural assembly members to follow suit for the last six years, hoping the central government would start discussing the issue,” Chung said.
He said it took such a long time partly because some assembly members feared losing their seats if suffrage was granted. In Osaka’s Ikuno Ward, for example, roughly 25 percent of the residents are Korean.
In an unusual twist, two resolutions were submitted to the assembly, because the Osaka chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party insisted that the word “reciprocity” be included as a condition to grant the rights in the resolution, meaning Japanese residing in other countries should also be granted the same rights.
Although the LDP is the largest force in the assembly, holding 44 out of 113 seats, the resolution submitted by New Komeito won the vote at the session.