DPJ pitting rookie women against LDP bigwigs

Kyodo News

The Democratic Party of Japan is provoking battles against Liberal Democratic Party heavyweights by fielding female political newcomers in single-seat districts.

In the Ishikawa No. 2 district, Mieko Tanaka, 33, a former temporary worker, is challenging former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who is seeking his 14th re-election.

“It will be a tough campaign under some dark clouds,” Mori, 72, told supporters. “I want to emphasize my experience and achievements.”

Tanaka, whom the Mori camp has called an “amateur,” started her battle by taking to the streets on a bike clad in pink blouse and white pants.

In the Ehime No. 1 district, the DPJ has fielded Takako Nagae, 49, against former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, 58.

Nagae was a popular anchorwoman for a local broadcaster and her information program drew an average 14 percent audience rating last Sunday. People rush to shake her hand when she makes street speeches.

Alarmed by her popularity, Shiozaki has held numerous small meetings with voters.

Challenging ex-Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, 68, in the Nagasaki No. 2 district, the DPJ’s Eriko Fukuda, 28, told voters, “Please don’t be afraid of change.”

Fukuda, the champion of a legal battle against the government as a hepatitis C patient, has traveled more than 50,000 km in the district and has tried to attract young voters by publicizing her activities through an e-mail magazine distributed by mobile phone.

Kyuma is now wearing a sash bearing his name across his chest for the first time in 14 years.

In the Tokyo No. 10 district, Takako Ebata, a 49-year-old former associate professor at the University of Tokyo, is challenging former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, 57, who ousted a so-called postal rebel in the previous election in 2005.

While Koike aims to attract conservative voters by repeatedly holding small gatherings, Ebata has made courtesy visits to around 25,000 households to make herself better known.