Former Social Democratic Party leader Takako Doi failed to retain her House of Representatives seat for a 13th term in Sunday’s election, bringing a 36-year Diet run to an end.

Doi, 76, also a former Lower House speaker and staunch advocate of the war-renouncing Constitution, refrained from running in her single-seat district in Hyogo Prefecture and was ranked last on the SDP’s five-candidate list for the proportional representation segment in the Kinki block.

By putting herself at the bottom of the list, Doi was apparently aiming to expand the SDP’s overall support base and help more junior members win a seat, including disgraced former SDP lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto, 45, who was convicted of defrauding the government.

Declining comment on whether she plans to retire from politics, Doi told a news conference held in Hyogo Prefecture early Monday that she will remain a supporter of the Constitution, saying, “My fight will continue.”

The party gained one seat in the Kinki proportional representation block, which was secured for Tsujimoto, who was placed at the top.

The loss of Doi, who has been the party’s most influential lawmaker, symbolizes a passing of the torch in the party as well as the recent heightened interest in constitutional revision.

First elected to the Diet in 1969, Doi led the Japan Socialist Party, the one-time main opposition force, as well as the JSP’s successor, the SDP, until she resigned in November 2003 over the party’s poor performance in that month’s general election.

The SDP fall was mainly caused by a financial scandal involving Tsujimoto and Doi’s former secretary in which government-paid salaries for lawmakers’ secretaries were misappropriated.

Doi lost her race in her single-seat district in Hyogo in the general election that year but managed to secure a seat through proportional representation.

A graduate of Doshisha University’s graduate school of law, Doi was the first woman to serve as speaker of the Lower House, from 1993 to 1996.

Meanwhile, SDP chief Mizuho Fukushima told reporters at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo that it “is up to Doi” whether the party will field her as a candidate in the next House of Councilors election, to be held in two years’ time.

Doi’s staunch supporters, however, appeared shocked to see her not return to the Diet.

“I’m saddened to think she will be gone from the Diet,’ said Tomiko Tsutsumi, 74, who has supported Doi for more than three decades. “She’s still capable of accomplishing many things.”

But Yasuo Kataoka, a member of the municipal assembly of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, who was a senior member of Doi’s campaign team, accepted the results calmly.

“We knew things might come to this. I think (Doi) herself had braced herself for it.”

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