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Japanese expatriates are showing little interest in voting in the upcoming general election, a problem the Foreign Ministry blames on the complex registration system.

On average, less than 4 percent of all eligible Japanese voters living overseas cast ballots in the last two national parliamentary elections, in 2000 and 2001, according to the ministry. It has encouraged Japanese nationals to register to vote since the Public Offices Election Law was revised in 1998.

The House of Representatives election falls on Nov. 9 and about 870,000 Japanese now live abroad, including 650,000 who are eligible to vote. But Japan’s diplomatic missions count only 76,000 names on the voters list, the Foreign Ministry said.

To register, overseas Japanese must take their passports to a Japanese embassy or consulate, where they can also usually vote. They have the option of voting by mail, but they must pay to both receive and return their ballots.

During the 2001 House of Councilors election, Japanese expatriates in Argentina cast the most votes, about 900, of all the Japanese nationals abroad. About 10,000 Japanese are permanent residents of Argentina.

“Permanent residents tend to show interest in elections because they want to maintain ties with Japan,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said. “But students and business officials do not care.”

The ministry is seeking to increase the number of registered overseas voters with officials visiting voters directly, as well as advertising in local newspapers urging Japanese expatriates to exercise their voting rights.

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