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The Liberal Democratic Party began full-fledged debate Thursday on a bill to grant local-level suffrage to foreign residents of Japan, but some 80 percent of the lawmakers involved in the debate oppose the legislation.

Masaaki Nakayama, head of the LDP’s internal panel on electoral systems, admitted the likelihood of the bill being passed by the end of the year is slim, as New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, the LDP’s coalition partners, had been hoping.

It will be difficult to get the bill passed during the current Diet session, he told reporters after Thursday’s meeting, adding that many LDP members oppose the legislation.

“It is important to thoroughly discuss the issue,” Nakayama said, adding that he believes the bill will be the main issue during the ordinary Diet session that convenes in January.

The apparent backpedaling in the LDP’s attitude toward the bill will probably provoke criticism from its two coalition allies, which jointly submitted the bill to the Diet.

The LDP had earlier seemed ready to support the bill. During Thursday’s meeting, which was attended by some 100 LDP legislators, “roughly 80 percent of the members were against the bill,” Nakayama said.

They argued that the matter involves aspects of the nation’s basic policies and thus the bill should not be passed without thorough discussion, he added.

Katsuei Hirasawa, a strong opponent of the bill, said such an important issue should not be discussed simply because the three ruling parties agree on it or because South Korean President Kim Dae Jung expressed hope that it would be enacted into law.

During a press conference Wednesday, New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki said the suffrage bill was the result of an agreement among the three parties. He said he hopes senior executives will exert strong leadership to make sure it becomes law.

Some LDP members put forward a new proposal, saying the government should grant descendants of Koreans who ended up in Japan during its colonial rule of the peninsula Japanese nationality without forcing them to undergo an examination.

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