National

Ogi set to become first female president of Upper House

Former transport minister Chikage Ogi will become the first female president of the House of Councilors this week at the extraordinary Diet session, party sources said Wednesday.

Ogi, 71, will officially assume the post, with the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, when the Diet convenes Friday.

She is a former actress of the all-female Takarazuka Revue theater troupe. Her real name is Hiroko Hayashi.

Ogi has been elected to the Upper House five times, making her the longest-serving active LDP member in the upper chamber.

“I think she is well-suited for the post,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is also LDP president, told reporters Wednesday morning. “Her voice carries very well, too.”

Some within the LDP had reportedly been opposed to Ogi’s candidacy because she left the LDP in 1994.

She served as a key member of the New Conservative Party before returning to the LDP last year when the NCP was absorbed by the LDP after suffering a crushing defeat in November’s House of Representatives election.

Her selection as Upper House president is seen as an attempt to improve the image of the chamber, which is often criticized as being a carbon copy of the more powerful Lower House.

The Lower House has had one female speaker, former Social Democratic Party leader Takako Doi, who served between August 1993 and September 1996.

Ogi was appointed construction minister under former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in July 2000, becoming the first woman to hold a position that controlled much of the public works budget.

She was appointed as the first land, infrastructure and transport minister in January 2001, when four government ministries and agencies, including the Construction Ministry, were reorganized into one ministry.

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