Almost 50 percent of major municipalities believe the central government should determine whether foreigners are granted suffrage in local elections rather than leaving the decision to local authorities, a Kyodo News survey said Saturday.

Forty-three of the 95 prefectural and major city governments surveyed said they were embarrassed by the plan, which was proposed earlier this week by some senior LDP members. The plan, which is a revision of a bill on granting permanent foreign residents — most of whom are Korean — voting rights in local elections, proposes that each local municipality decide whether to grant suffrage to permanent foreign residents.

The same group of 43 municipalities agreed that the protection of foreigners’ human rights is a diplomatic matter best handled by the central government.

Of the 95 local governments covered in the poll — all 47 prefectural governments, municipal governments that have prefectural capitals and major cities with a population of more than 1 million — 51 declined to give a clear answer on their positions on the plan.

Many merely said they plan to keep a close watch on discussions of the issue during the ongoing Diet session.

Respondents from Nagano and Kagoshima city halls said the LDP plan indicates that the central government no longer wants to make its own decisions on the issue.

A Wakayama Prefectural Government official said, “The government threw us a breaking ball,” using a baseball metaphor to explain the prefectural government’s confusion over the plan.

Only the Tottori and Okinawa prefectural governments expressed clear support for the initiative. “We should think of the plan as an option,” Tottori Gov. Yoshihiro Katayama said.

Some local governments, including the Fukushima Prefectural Government, said it is natural to give the right to vote to permanent foreign residents because they are also taxpayers.

Katayama also said, “No taxation without representation” is a truth for all ages and countries. Katayama, who expressed his support for the foreign suffrage legislation last week, is the only prefectural governor to do so.

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