Japanese voters have elected the nation's first woman mayor and placed a record number of women in city assembly seats, unofficial results from nationwide local elections showed Monday.
Another winner Sunday was Hitoshi Motoshima, the mayor of Nagasaki, who was wounded by an ultra-rightist gunman last year after saying Emperor Hirohito bore some responsibility for World War II. He was re-elected to a fourth four-year term.The Social Democratic Party, Japan's No. 1 opposition group, suffered setbacks in voting for Tokyo's 23 ward assemblies. These followed its biggest election defeat in party history in local balloting earlier this month.
In Ashiya, a western city of 88,000 people, Harue Kitamura, 62, was elected as Japan's first woman mayor after campaigning for better education. The independent candidate, who is a lawyer, defeated an incumbent backed by the governing Liberal Democratic Party.
"More women should become involved in city politics," the mass-circulation daily Asahi Shimbun quoted Kitamura as saying. "They should also advance to management positions if they have the ability."
"Mother Power Wins" and "Aproned Supporters Cheer" were among the national dailies' headlines announcing her victory.
"(Kitamura) will undoubtedly serve as a great lighthouse for women aiming for participation in political decisionmaking," Asahi Shimbun quoted Teiko Kihira, a woman who is a member of Parliament as saying.
In city assemblies, women won a record 657 seats, a 30 percent increase from the previous local elections in 1987, Kyodo News Service reported. The previous high was 504 seats in 1987.
Women politicians began making gains in this largely male-dominated society with the 1989 parliamentary and Tokyo city assembly elections, as voters sought an alternative to the governing party's scandal-tainted politics.