20 February 2019
Takako Doi is triumphant after becoming leader of her party in 1986. Photo: Kyodo
Takako Doi is triumphant after becoming leader of her party in 1986. Photo: Kyodo

Japan’s first female House speaker dies, 85

Takako Doi, the former head of the Japan Socialist Party, who also served as the first female speaker of the Lower House, died of pneumonia on Sept. 20, according to the Wall Street Journal. She was 85.

Doi first won her Lower House seat in 1969 and in 1986 was named the first female leader of her party. The former law professor fought to protect Japan’s pacifist constitution, and three years later in 1989 played a key role in serving a historic defeat to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Upper House election.

The socialist party’s drive “is helped immensely by its popular leader, Takako Doi, the only woman head of a major party. She has a personal charisma rarely seen in Japanese politics,” reporter Elisabeth Rubinfien wrote in an article for the Wall Street Journal on July 19, 1989.

“At a campaign rally last week in southern Japan, party organizers had rounded up 3,000 people to attend, but 12,000 showed up. Earlier, in a LDP stronghold that is the home town of former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, an estimated 13,000 voters massed for a glimpse of Doi,” the report also said.

In addition to Doi’s popularity, the opposition parties took advantage of a controversial consumption tax introduced by the LDP as well as an on-going bribery scandal involving the government at the time. The opposition won control of the Upper House after the 1989 election.

“The mountain has moved,” Doi famously said of the results.

Dominated largely by men, Doi was one of the few female heavyweights ever to rise in Japanese politics. “If we had presidential elections, there’s no question she’d win,” Jimbe Ando, Doi’s behind-the-scenes adviser, told the Wall Street Journal in July 1989.

Doi failed to keep the momentum going for the party though and stepped down as its head in June 1991. 

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