Japanese ruling and opposition parties on Thursday agreed to enact a new law to allow COVID-19 patients recovering in hotels or at home to vote by mail in national and local elections.
The parties hope to see the new law in place in time for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly's election to be held on July 4.
Coronavirus carriers without severe symptoms and people who have had close contact with carriers are required to stay inside accommodation for such people or their own homes for isolation. It would, therefore, be difficult for them to visit polling stations.
At an executive meeting of a special committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament, the ruling and opposition parties broadly agreed to take necessary legislative action during the current Diet session ending in June, in order to protect the right of such people to vote.
According to an outline of a planned bill presented by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, voting by mail will be granted as an exceptional measure to coronavirus carriers and people with close contact with carriers staying in hotels or at home for isolation.
Among opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People have drawn up their own draft bills.
The ruling and opposition sides will hold a meeting next week, hoping to accelerate efforts to integrate their proposals, informed sources said.
At the day's executive meeting, Takeshi Iwaya, acting head of the LDP's Research Commission on the Election System, sought cooperation from other parties.
A postal vote system was introduced in Japan soon after the end of World War II. But it was abolished due to a series of fraudulent practices.
Postal voting is currently granted mainly to people with severe disabilities.
In the upcoming talks between the ruling and opposition camps, how to prevent voting fraud is likely to be a key issue.
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