National / Politics

SDP’s Takako Doi, first female leader of major political party in Japan, dies at 85

Kyodo, Staff Report

Takako Doi, a former House of Representatives speaker and onetime head of the Social Democratic Party, died of pneumonia on Sept. 20, the SDP said Sunday. She was 85.

Doi, who served as a Lower House member for 12 terms from 1969 to 2005, led the predecessor of the SDP from 1986 to 1991 as the first female leader of a major Japanese political party. She again took the helm of the party in 1996, when it renamed itself, and continued in the post until 2003.

A constitutional scholar, Doi was regarded as one of the highest-profile female pioneers in the male-dominated field of Japanese politics.

In the July 1989 House of Councilors election, she played a key role in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party losing its majority in the chamber, as her tough, straight-talking manner appealed to voters, especially women. In that vote, Doi spearheaded a campaign opposing the introduction of the unpopular consumption tax that year, at a rate of 3 percent.

“The mountain has moved,” she said after the election, a phrase that would be widely circulated among the public and symbolize the emerging power of women in politics and the weakening of the LDP.

“Ms. Doi has passed away. . . . (She) persuaded me to run (for a Diet seat) in 1998, and I decided to run to defend the Constitution,” Mizuho Fukushima, an Upper House member and former SDP chief herself, tweeted Sunday. “It’s really shocking, as if my mother in politics has died.”

Doi graduated from Doshisha University’s Graduate School of Law and was the first woman to become speaker of the powerful House of Representatives, a position she served in from 1993 to 1996.

In 1996, she again became head of her party, but resigned in 2003 to take responsibility for the its trouncing in that year’s general election. After failing to win a seat in the 2005 Lower House election, Doi retired from politics.

The SDP, once the country’s most powerful opposition party, was a driving force behind social democratic and pacifist movements, but its fortunes have waned in recent years and it is now a minor opposition party with just a handful of Diet lawmakers.