Photo/Illutration An Upper House election campaign scene on June 22, 2022, in Saitama (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Tokyo metropolitan chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party held a “women-only” recruitment drive for candidates in the next Lower House election, drawing internal criticism of discrimination against male politicians.

From March 3 to 10, the Tokyo chapter solicited “women 25 or older with Japanese citizenship” to run for the Lower House seat representing the No. 18 district in the capital.

A source close to the Tokyo chapter said the move matched the intentions of LDP headquarters to promote female participation in politics.

LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi said at a March 6 news conference that the party has urged prefectural chapters to proactively recruit female candidates since last year.

The Tokyo chapter’s recruitment tactic “is a positive effort,” Motegi said.

The No. 18 electoral district comprises the three western suburban cities of Musashino, Koganei and Nishi-Tokyo.

The branch offices of the three cities submitted a letter to LDP headquarters and the Tokyo chapter, demanding an end to the “women-only” solicitation.

The letter said the solicitation leaves no room for the selection of male candidates. It also said the drive “highly likely runs counter to” Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Law for Men and Women.

The party is expected to ask the branch offices for an “understanding” of the solicitation.

“I feel this is our only option to increase the number of female politicians,” a senior member at LDP headquarters said.

The No. 18 district has traditionally been a liberal stronghold of Naoto Kan, a former prime minister and senior member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The LDP has continuously fielded male candidates against Kan for the single-seat constituency but has suffered losses each time except in the 2012 and 2014 elections.

A middle-ranking LDP member said the Tokyo chapter’s strategy to field female candidates in the district was a positive attempt.

But the member added, “If such an effort does not last long, people will see it just as a vote-getting gesture and it will result in disappointment.”

Currently, only 10 percent of Lower House members are female.

In the Upper House election last year, 33.2 percent of all candidates were women. The ratio for the LDP was 23.2 percent.

(This article was written by Shinichi Fujiwara and Ayako Nakada.)