Mayor of Musashino wants to “make the most of the diversity of our city’s residents.”

A lot of organizations in Japan go into a sort of slow-down mode at this time of year, as end-of-the-year parties, Christmas celebrations, and plans for New Year’s, the biggest holiday in Japan, leave people with less time for their usual business. Even still, the members of the city council of Musashino City, a section of Tokyo west of the downtown area, found time to come together and vote on, well, voting.

At a plenary session held on Tuesday, 25 members of the council cast their votes on a proposal to grant voting rights to foreign residents of Musashino, which includes the fashionable Kichijoji neighborhood and Inokashira Park (pictured above). The initiative was spearheaded by Musashino mayor Reiko Matsushita, with the goal of “making the most of the diversity of our city’s residents,” and had already been approved by the council’s general affairs committee on Monday of last week.

Though the proposal didn’t go so far as to grant foreign residents the ability to vote for elected positions such as mayor or parliamentary representatives, it did seek to allow them to vote in local referendums, essentially direct votes to accept or reject specific proposals or policies by the local government. Under the proposal, the only requirements for foreign residents to be able to vote in referendums would be to be at least 18 years old and to have lived in Musashino for at least three months, which are the exact same referendum voting requirements for Japanese citizens in Musashino.

Ultimately, though, the proposal proved to be too much of a departure from the current system for the council’s members, and it was rejected by a majority vote.

The proposal’s defeat, however, was a narrow one, with 14 council members opposed and 11 in favor. That small margin of defeat has Matsushita still eager to find ways life in the city of roughly 148,000 people can be improved for its approximately 3,000 foreign residents. “While accepting the results [of today’s vote], we will continue to study the situation and develop ways to respect human rights, recognize diversity, and build a supportive society.”

▼ Matsushita, jumping rope while visiting a local school

At present, about 40 municipalities in Japan have some sort of allowances for foreign residents to vote in local referendums, though the vast majority requiring voting foreigners to satisfy conditions beyond those for voters who are Japanese citizens (such as having secured permanent residency status). Only two cities, Kanagawa’s Zushi and Osaka’s Toyonaka, currently have what Matsushita was proposing, identical local referendum voting requirements for foreign residents and Japanese citizens, and if the proposal had passed Musashino would have been the first in Tokyo.

Sources: NHK News Web, The Japan News, Asahi Shimbun
Top image: Wikipedia/Jnpet
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