Japanese female legislators remain seated

Yasuo Takao

Japan’s House of Councilors (House of Councillors) election was held on July 10, 2022, with 125 of the 284 seats contested nationwide. Japanese newspapers ran headlines celebrating the record number of women winning parliamentary seats. But this admiration may not stand up to scrutiny.

A record 181 female candidates ran for the House of Councilors, accounting for 33% of all candidates. This new record comes very close to the government’s target of 35% by 2025 as part of the 5th Basic Plan for Gender Equality. Subsequently, the female candidate won her 28% of the 125 seats contested. As a result, the total number of female lawmakers, including those whose seats were not contested in this election, reached a record high of 64.

The selection of candidates, including the candidacy of women parliamentarians, is based on Japanese political considerations and the ideology of political parties. The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) has a long history of supporting female candidates and nominated the highest percentage of female candidates (55%). The Constitutional Democratic Party (CDPJ) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) nominated 51% and 42% respectively.

Twenty-three percent of opposition candidates in the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are women, while Komeito achieved 21 percent. Still, LDP female candidates were much more likely to win than opposition female candidates. is 20%.

Japan’s House of Councilors electoral system is far more favorable to women than the House of Representatives. In this House of Councilors election, Japanese voters cast her two votes. One vote for her 74 multiple seats and single-seat prefectural constituencies, one for him, and one for her 50 seats elected by open proportional representation.

Multi-member constituencies and proportional representation are associated with increased female representation. When an organization elects multiple candidates in districts with multiple legislators, there is an opportunity to balance tickets by achieving gender representation. A party list system also requires a centralized procedure for candidate selection that gives party leaders, rather than local party members, the flexibility to nominate candidates from diverse backgrounds.

The success of female candidates in the recent House of Councilors election is a positive step. But the real challenge facing Japanese political parties is increasing female representation in the House of Representatives. In the 2021 House of Representatives election, women made up 18% of all candidates and her 10% of all elected candidates.

The electoral system of the House of Representatives is a mixed electoral system with a single constituency system and a proportional representation system. In single-seat constituencies, it is difficult for party leaders to endorse female candidates. Because they tend to choose “safe” representatives or support incumbents. The proportional representation tier of party lists is seen as a secondary chance of winning a seat even if a candidate loses a single-member district election.

In the 2021 House of Representatives election, 91% of LDP candidates in single-seat constituencies were Republican candidates, and 88% of LDP incumbents were elected. But these LDP incumbent women made up only 8% of her.

One of the supply-side barriers to women’s representation is that some people Third (Three key factors)—campaign organization, name recognition, and some sort of fundraising device—are selected as candidates. Women’s perceived lack of these electoral assets means that they are less likely to be selected as candidates or as challengers to other party members in elections to the House of Representatives.

To solve this problem, 60 countries have adopted voluntary quotas for individual political parties to increase female representation. After the unanimous passage of the Act on Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field in May 2018, the CDPJ, JCP and SDP each set a target of 50% female candidates. , and the headquarters sidestepped calls for change by stating that it has asked local organizations to actively assign women.

The good news is on the demand side. In explaining the low representation of women in Japanese politics, some point to Japan’s deep-rooted patriarchal institutions and attitudes. However, according to the World Values ​​Survey, Japanese voters’ belief in the suitability of men for leadership positions has weakened significantly between 1995 and 2020. Positive perceptions of men in leadership positions dropped significantly from her 60% in 1995 to her 25% in 2020.

This cultural change reduces the extent to which gender disparities in political representation can be explained by voter preferences. This is due to the Japanese political system and the unwillingness of political parties to field and support female candidates. In order for Japan to increase women’s political representation, not only cultural changes but also reforms at the structural level will be required.

Yasuo Takao is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University, Perth.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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