In a move designed to flatter its key coalition ally, the Liberal Democratic Party will agree to hold a Lower House vote during the current Diet session on a bill to grant foreign residents suffrage, LDP policy affairs chief Taro Aso said Friday.

“(Lower House members) will take a vote on the bill during this Diet session,” Aso, head of the LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council, told reporters at the LDP’s headquarters.

The bill, which would grant foreign residents the right to vote in local elections, has been strongly advocated by New Komeito but elicits fierce opposition from some quarters within the LDP.

Because of this, the LDP will probably allow its members to vote their conscience.

Earlier in the day, the LDP’s five top executives agreed that the party’s election system research council should further discuss the issue before sending it to the Executive Council for a final decision. The election council will begin deliberations next week.

Aso said this process is necessary “to prevent the discussions at the Executive Council from becoming a mess.”

LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki acknowledged that strong opposition to the bill remains within the party.

“Very careful consideration is needed to decide on whether to adopt a unified position on the bill or allow each member to vote freely,” he said. “I am not sure how long it will take to reach a conclusion.”

In response to New Komeito’s demand that the bill be enacted within the current session, Yamasaki said, “We have to make a sincere response to maintain the coalition.”

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