Women account for a record 17.7 percent of the candidates in the current House of Representatives election, with 209 women running for seats. However, this is still a long way from the different parties’ election pledges to even the numbers of male and female lawmakers.
The Liberal Democratic Party pledged to pass as early as possible a bill for the promotion of equal participation of men and women in the political sphere. The bill aims to oblige political parties to make efforts to make the number of male and female candidates in national and other elections as equal as possible.
Some other parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, are touting the high target of making the numbers of male and female Diet members equal.
In reality, however, 8 percent of the LDP’s candidates are women, compared to 24 percent for the JCP.
As far as the number of female candidates in the current election is concerned, it cannot be denied that the parties’ pledges are merely slogans.
Before the official start of the election campaign, only 9.1 percent of lower house members were women.
In the LDP and other long-established parties, members of the recently dissolved lower house, most of whom are men, have been endorsed as candidates in many cases. “There is little room for women to get in,” a source related to the LDP said. Even among the 44 new candidates from the party, only two are women.
It is easier for newly established parties and others to actively field female candidates because they include fewer candidates from the recently dissolved lower house.
Women make up 24 percent of the candidates of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and 20 percent of the candidates for Kibo no To (Party of Hope). Among Kibo’s 124 new candidates, 41 are women.
There is also the fact that the parties’ efforts to field female candidates did not go as they hoped, partly because the lower house was abruptly dissolved.
Kibo leader Yuriko Koike said in her stump speech in Sagamihara on Thursday: “I wish we could have fielded more [female candidates]. It’s a pity we didn’t have enough time.”
The highest number of female candidates in history was 229, in the lower house election in 2009. Of this group, 54 won seats and the percentage of women among all successful candidates was also a record high of 11.3 percent.
Of the 229 women, 40 were from the then Democratic Party of Japan. Because Ichiro Ozawa, who is now coleader of the Liberal Party, coached them on how to compete in the election campaign, they were dubbed “Ozawa girls.”
A focal point of the current election is whether women can surpass the previous records of winning 54 seats and accounting for 11.3 percent of the victors.
“The important point is how to form a consensus inside political parties, because if the number of female candidates increases, there will be less opportunities for men. More voters also need to criticize the fact that women’s opinions are not sufficiently reflected in politics,” said Prof. Mieko Nakabayashi of Waseda University, who was once a lower house member and is well versed in women’s participation in politics.