Newcomers to the Diet account for 22 percent of the 480 winners in Sunday’s Lower House election and have lowered the average age in the chamber from 55 to 54.

Those who had held Lower House seats until the chamber was dissolved June 2 accounted for 73 percent of the successful candidates, while nearly 5 percent were former lawmakers making a comeback.

While the number of newcomers was almost unchanged from the 1996 election, the new crop managed to produce the youngest successful candidate in Japanese history.

Social Democratic Party candidate Yoko Hara, 25, won a seat in the southern Kanto proportional representation bloc after failing to win the single-seat constituency in Kanagawa Prefecture.

In Japan, 25 is the lowest possible age at which one can enter the Lower House. On Sunday, Hara, who completed a master’s degree at Obirin University this spring, became the youngest person to win a Diet seat, beating the previous youngest candidate, who did it in 1947, by nine days.

After her election, Hara pledged to speak for the younger generation in the Diet.

The oldest winning candidate in Sunday’s poll was Seisuke Okuno, 86, of the LDP. Okuno beat three other candidates aged 28, 34 and 44 in Nara Prefecture to win for the 13th time.

The victories of the many younger candidates fielded by the Democratic Party of Japan has helped to rejuvenate the chamber, but the loss of a number of veteran lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party in Tokyo and other urban constituencies also contributed.

The highest average age among winning candidates was found in the New Conservative Party, at 59. The lowest average was in the DPJ, at 49.

Former members of prefectural or municipal assemblies constituted the largest segment of the 480 newcomers at 140, or 29 percent.

Bureaucrats accounted for 17 percent, followed by secretaries of Diet members, at 14 percent. Many of the successful candidates from the Japanese Communist Party and New Komeito are former party officials and executives of related organizations.

More women elected

Thirty-five women won seats in Sunday’s general election, a record high in elections held under Japan’s postwar Constitution and a rise of 12 from the previous record posted in the 1996 election.

However, the number represents only 7.3 percent of the 480 Lower House seats that were available. A record 202 female candidates ran in the election.

By party, the Social Democratic Party led by Takako Doi managed to elect 10 women out of 19 successful candidates — the highest among participating parties.

The Liberal Democratic Party had eight successful female candidates, including the second daughter of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

The Democratic Party of Japan put six women in the Lower House, while the Japanese Communist Party sent four and New Komeito three.

A total of 39 women were elected in the 1946 general election held under the old Constitution.