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Women Play Increased Role in Latest Election With PM-Japan, Bjt

July 24, 1989

TOKYO (AP) _ Women, both candidates and voters, played a prominent role in ending the governing party’s control of parliament’s upper house and driving Prime Minister Sousuke Uno from office.

A record 22 women won seats in Sunday’s election as female voters rallied against a new 3 percent sales tax that daily cuts into their buying power and women’s groups denounced Uno over allegations that he kept paid mistresses.

Uno’s governing Liberal Democratic Party became the target of further outrage after a prominent party member said on the campaign trail that women were ″useless in politics.″

The previous record number of women winners in upper house balloting was 10. Elections are held every three years for half of the upper house’s 252 seats. In Sunday’s voting, the Liberal Democrats lost their upper house majority for the first time since the party was formed in 1955.

″The votes today proved that the people believe women have the power to serve in parliament,″ newly elected lawmaker Harumi Inui of the labor confederation Rengo said in a television interview.

″Women’s voices are getting stronger and stronger,″ said Takashi Inoguchi, professor of political science at Tokyo University.

Inoguchi said one factor in bringing out the women’s vote was the passage three years ago of an equal employment law, which he said was gradually bringing more women into formerly male occupations.

Eligible women voters outnumber men by 2.7 million, and their turnout rate is nearly 66 percent, compared with about 64 percent for men.

With a record 146 women candidates in the field, up from 82 in the last upper house election, Japanese media referred to the ″madonna factor,″ in which wholesome housewives were contrasted with ″old boy″ politicians tainted in various money scandals.

Uno was named prime minister on June 2 for his politically clean image after his predecessor resigned over an influence-peddling scandal. But almost immediately, women were outraged over published and broadcast reports that Uno paid women, including professional geisha entertainers, to be his mistresses for at least 10 years. Uno replied simply that he did nothing immoral.

Acknowledging his party’s trouncing at the polls, Uno told a news conference today, ″All responsibilities lie with myself. I have decided to resign as prime minister and Liberal Democratic Party president.″

Asked whether his alleged extramarital liaisons affected the outcome, Uno would say only, ″I said I am totally responsible. I think you understand.″

The Liberal Democrats also suffered when Agriculture Minister Hisao Horinouchi said earlier this month that women are ″useless in politics.″

Horinouchi also said Socialist Party Chairwoman Takako Doi was unfit to be prime minister because she had never married or had children.

Eleven of the women winners were supported by the Socialists, while just two ran on the Liberal Democrat ticket.

Three Communist women candidates were elected, as were two from the No. 2 opposition Komeito, or Clean Government Party, two from the labor confederation and two independents.

The Socialists fielded 12 women candidates in the election, twice as many as in 1986.

Opposition women candidates rallied under the slogan ″every day is tax payment day″ as they denounced the sales tax that took effect April 1 as part of a tax reform package forced through parliament by the Liberal Democrats during an opposition boycott.

″Women candidates made a favorable impression with their stance against the consumption tax and household issues,″ Yoshitomo Sakai, secretary-general of the Socialists’ election committee, told Kyodo News Service. ″The popularity of Takako Doi, who made appearances in more than 90 places around the country, also had a big impact.″

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