A plan by Japan’s centre-left leaders to give foreigners the vote in local elections has sparked a conservative backlash, showing ethnic minority issues can touch a raw nerve in the island-nation.
The idea is to grant local and regional but not national suffrage to almost one million permanent residents of ethnic Korean, Chinese and other foreign backgrounds, both those who were born overseas and their descendants.
But when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama floated the idea for the current parliamentary session, a key coalition partner quickly managed to derail the plan, at least temporarily.
Siding with protests from the conservative opposition, the maverick leader of the tiny People’s New Party, Financial Services Minister Shizuka Kamei, this month threatened to quit the government over the issue.
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