Efforts to establish legislation aimed at increasing the number of female parliamentarians are running into difficulties on account of discord between the ruling and opposition parties. In May, a bipartisan group of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Komeito Party, and the Democratic Party drafted a “bill to promote gender equality in politics,” but immediately after this, the opposition camp submitted to the Diet a more stringent bill. This raised the hackles of the ruling parties. “The relationship of trust with the opposition parties has collapsed,” said an LDP member.
The bill worked out by the bipartisan group calls for making it mandatory for political parties and organizations to make efforts to “achieve gender equality as much as possible” in fielding candidates for local and national elections to encourage female participation in politics.
Initially, the bill called for [fielding] “the same number of male and female candidates as much as possible,” but the LDP and Komeito argued that calling for “the same number” is too strict and was displeased with the draft. The language was later altered to use the term “equality” and endorsed when executive members of the bipartisan group met in May.
But the DP, the Japanese Communist Party, the People’s Life Party, and the Social Democratic Party objected to the draft. They jointly submitted to the Diet the original bill that retained the language “the same number of men and women” on May 30 before the bipartisan group officially endorsed [the revised version] at its general session. Deliberations on the bill will continue through the next session.
These moves are drawing anger from the ruling parties. “The opposition parties’ unilateral submission of the bill runs counter to faith and is shocking to us,” said Michiyo Takagi, a House of Representatives member from Komeito. The ruling parties are considering submitting the bill drafted by the bipartisan group as a counterproposal.
“We will discuss the counterproposal while focusing mainly on the bill co-sponsored by the four opposition parties and hope to enact it in the extraordinary Diet session to be convened this autumn,” said Masaharu Nakagawa, chairman of the bipartisan group with the DP and former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. But some people speculate that it may take some time to rebuild trust between the ruling and opposition parties. (Abridged)