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The Democratic Party of Japan, the nation’s largest opposition party, announced Monday it plans to introduce a gender-based quota system for selecting candidates for national and local elections.”It is the first time for a political party to introduce the system in this country, where it is widely known that women’s participation in politics has been extremely low compared with the rest of the world,” said Yasuko Takemura, an Upper House party member.The DPJ will make efforts to ensure that 50 percent of its candidates for the nationwide proportional representation list at the next Upper House election are women, said Takemura, chief of the DPJ’s panel on sexual equality in social participation.The list of candidates for the election, scheduled for July, will have the names of male and female candidates listed in alternating order, she said. The DPJ also decided that women should account for 30 percent of all party candidates in prefecture-based, Upper House constituencies, Takemura said. “The DPJ intends to provide women with ability with more opportunities to participate in the male-dominated world of politics,” she said.Japanese women are considerably underrepresented in politics, accounting for only 7.6 percent of Diet members, 3.3 percent of prefectural assemblies and 7.4 percent of municipal assemblies, according to Takemura.Women account for about 40 percent of lawmakers in Sweden, Norway and Finland, whose quota systems require that at least 40 percent of the legislative seats be occupied by women. The corresponding figure for Germany is 26.2 percent and for Australia is 21.3 percent.The DPJ aims to raise the figure for women in Japan to 10 percent in 2000 and 15 percent in 2010, Takemura said. However, the DPJ’s policy for the coming Upper House election may not be realized because the party is seeking a way to work with three other opposition parties — Minseito, Yuai and the Democratic Reform Party — to draft a joint list of candidates for the nationwide proportional representation constituency for the poll.

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