Anyway, while I'm sure that there are reasonable arguments both in favor of and against giving foreign residents the right to vote in local elections in Japan, I found this recent editorial in The Daily Yomiuri Online, which argues against suffrage for foreign residents, to be both interesting and illuminating. Interesting because the author presents what appears to be a rather strong argument on constitutional grounds:
[...] from fundamental viewpoints, including provisions in the Constitution and the ideal state of the nation, the right to vote cannot be extended to foreigners even in local elections.
A 1995 Supreme Court ruling on the issue clearly stipulates that the right to select and dismiss public officials under Article 15 of the Constitution rests with "Japanese people," meaning those who have Japanese nationality. It also says that the "residents" who choose heads and assembly members of local governments should be "Japanese people."
The Constitution clearly denies foreign nationals the right to vote in elections, including local ones. Local autonomy is part of an order based on the Constitution. Anything that contravenes the top law should not be allowed.
Illuminating because, not content to argue simply from the standpoint of reason and law, the author seems to feel it's necessary to inject a little fear-mongering and xenophobia into the debate. Under the heading of "Foreign subversion a threat," the article says:
Local governments control their residents' rights and duties, as well as establish ordinances that stipulate punishments. They exercise public authority similar to that of the central government. In addition to providing public services, local governments are also involved in handling problems related to the central government's basic policies, such as security and education.
The law stipulating procedures to be followed in the event of an armed attack on the nation and the people's protection law call for cooperation between the central and local governments during an emergency.
If foreigners holding the nationality of a nation hostile to Japan abused their permanent resident status and exercised their voting right to obstruct cooperation between the state and local governments, Japan's safety would be threatened.
What the author is in effect saying here is this: we can't give foreigners the right to vote because they might vote the wrong way. No, not the wrong way. They might vote dangerously, because, well, they're foreigners.
I suppose the editors of the Yomiuri should be congratulated. They've performed the amazing feat of taking a perfectly good argument, diluting it with pandering nonsense, and turning it into shit.