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Ainu group gives up fielding candidates in poll

Kyodo

A political group launched in January 2012 with the ambition of becoming a bona fide party to better represent the indigenous Ainu has given up its plan to field 10 candidates in the July 21 Upper House election after failing to collect sufficient campaign funds.

The Ainu Party of Japan does not meet the legal requirements to be officially called a political party and thus needed to put down a deposit of ¥60 million and run at least 10 candidates to compete in the proportional representation segment of the election.

The group was counting on contributions but raised little money. Few people volunteered to be candidates as well.

“It was a lack of foresight. But we want to produce a lawmaker in 10 years by continuing to make steady efforts,” said Shiro Kayano, 55, leader of the group.

Kayano and other colleagues were inspired by the Maori Party of New Zealand and other overseas parties formed by indigenous peoples that have succeeded in producing national legislators.

They also felt that the voices of the Ainu — numbering about 24,000 in Hokkaido in a 2006 survey by the prefectural government — were not fully reflected in the handling of issues such as discrimination in marriage and employment, poverty, and difficulty in accessing higher education.

Kayano’s father, the late Shigeru Kayano, was the first Ainu member of the Diet. He won a proportional representation seat on the ticket of the former Japan Socialist Party.

“He was not a parliamentarian produced by the Ainu,” the younger Kayano noted.

In the Lower House election last December, the party managed to field one candidate, who was defeated. The group still has fewer than 100 members and struggles to spread its message.