The Social Democratic Party is becoming dominated by women, with female lawmakers holding its top three posts.

The new setup, decided at an SDP convention Sunday, is the latest plan to ensure its survival under Takako Doi, the first female party chief and first female speaker of the House of Representatives, observers said.

Mizuho Fukushima, 45, was appointed secretary general, the first woman to fill the key post in a political party.

Originally a lawyer, Fukushima is serving her first six-year term in the House of Councilors, after being elected in 1998.

She succeeded Sadao Fuchigami in the post.

Observers said the SDP has entrusted its future to a woman with just three years in politics. But there is a precedent for a relatively inexperienced lawmaker being picked as a party’s No. 2 executive.

In January 1993, the late Sadao Yamahana, who assumed the helm of the then-largest opposition party, the now-defunct Socialists, appointed 44-year-old Hirotaka Akamatsu as secretary general. Akamatsu won his Lower House seat in February 1990.

Yamahana said at the time, “I want to build a foothold for the party’s rebirth,” indicating he wanted to do so by personnel changes and reforms.

However, the party under the Yamahana-Akamatsu leadership suffered a huge setback in the July 1993 general election, losing 64 seats. It was never able to regain its Diet strength and was dissolved. Some members, including Akamatsu, joined the Democratic Party of Japan, now the top opposition force.

Political analysts said the SDP’s latest personnel change is also aimed at expanding its Diet strength, but Doi is trying an unprecedented “experiment” by turning it into a party run by women.

Three of the SDP’s key positions are now filled by women — Fukushima, Doi, 72, and Kiyomi Tsujimoto, 41, who retained the post of policy affairs chief and is tipped as the most likely successor to Doi as party president.

The SDP has 19 members in the Lower House, 10 of whom are women, and eight in the Upper House, half of them women. Whether the small party can rock the stagnant political boat might in part depend on Doi’s experiment, observers said.

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