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Record no. of female city mayors, assembly members elected in Japan's unified local polls

Akemi Fujita, center, celebrates her victory in the Kamo mayoral election in Niigata Prefecture on the evening of April 21, 2019. (Mainichi/Yosuke Tsuyuki)

TOKYO -- The latter half of this year's nationwide local elections that took place April 21 saw a record number of women being voted in as city mayors and assembly members.

A total of six female city mayors were selected -- breaking the record of four in the last unified local elections in 2015 -- in polls taken nationwide to decide on mayors, municipal assembly members, and Tokyo's ward mayors and ward assembly members April 21.

Mayoral elections took place in 59 cities, 11 Tokyo wards, and 66 towns and villages, excluding the 27 cities and 55 towns and villages where seats went uncontested. Incumbents won in the prefectural capitals of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture; Nagasaki; and Oita.

In the Niigata Prefecture city of Kamo, former city assembly member Akemi Fujita, 48, won against the incumbent mayor who was running for his seventh term. In the Yamaguchi prefectural city of Shunan, former prefectural assembly member Ritsuko Fujii, 65, beat the incumbent who was bidding for his third term.

In Kizugawa, Kyoto Prefecture, where it came down to a battle between two female candidates, the incumbent, 63-year-old Noriko Kawai, clinched her fourth term. In the Hyogo Prefecture city of Ashiya, where the race was between two women running for mayor for the first time, former city assembly member Mai Ito, 49, came out victorious. In the Nagano Prefecture city of Suwa, 60-year-old Yukari Kaneko won her second mayoral term uncontested, as did 48-year-old Noriko Suematsu of Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, who won her third term without contest.

In the Hokkaido Prefecture city of Yubari, the only municipality to come under central government supervision for financial reconstruction, a former Yubari city assembly speaker Tsukasa Atsuya, 53, was elected mayor for the first time. Atsuya's predecessor as mayor was elected the governor of Hokkaido in an election held as part of the second round of the local elections.

Assembly elections took place in 283 cities, 20 Tokyo wards, and 282 towns and villages, excluding the 11 cities and 93 towns and villages where seats went uncontested. The proportion of female candidates stood at 17.3% in city assembly elections, and 12.1% at town and village assemblies, marking a record high.

Meanwhile, the Mainichi Shimbun found that the number of women elected to city assemblies reached 1,239 in the nationwide elections -- six more than the number in the 2003 polls -- marking a record high. The percentage of women who nabbed the seats at stake went up 2.3 percentage points since the last elections in 2015, to reach a record high of 18.4%. The winning rate of female candidates was also at a record high of 88.9%, slightly above the rate of 83.4% among both men and women combined.

(Japanese original by Shin Yasutaka, City News Department)

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