The last suffrage movement in Japan: Voting rights for persons under guardianship
In the 1990s, only four of the 63 democratic countries of the world opted to give the right to vote to people with mental health problems and/or intellectual disabilities. However, by the late 2000s, 11 countries, including Japan, had lifted all restrictions and granted those people the right to vote. These changes were justified based on international factors such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was drafted in 2006. However, as shown by the fact that some countries have granted this right and other countries have not, even among countries that ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, foreign pressure has had varying effects. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze domestic political processes in order to explain the increasing number of countries granting full voting rights to people with mental/intellectual disabilities. In Japan, people under guardianship gained the right to vote in 2013. Why and how did this happen? This article examines Japan’s domestic political processes regarding this right, and clarifies the conditions under which it was recovered. The article reveals how the investigation into the process of making domestic legal changes, which is required to ratify treaties related to the rights of people with mental and/or intellectual disabilities, led to an important discovery regarding the constitutional basis for denying voting rights. People with disabilities and their supporters claimed that the qualification clauses of the Public Offices Election Act were unconstitutional. The resultant rulings in favor of the plaintiffs directly led to legal revisions.