Electing women to the Japanese lower house: The impact of the electoral system

Miyuki Kubo, Aie Rie Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Researchers cite the Japanese electoral system as an influential determinant of women's legislative representation. While there is a broad consensus in the literature that proportional-representational electoral systems create fewer obstacles to women's representation, we are at a loss to explain how Japan's mixed system affects the election of women to its Lower House. To the extent that this mixed system combines attributes of both single-member district (SMD) and proportionalrepresentation (PR) tiers, the impact of the mixed system on women's representation is contingent on how the system works. The key to understanding this mechanism, we contend, lies in political parties' nomination strategies. We therefore seek to understand whether and/or how the mechanisms of Japan's electoral system operate to elect women. In this study, we highlight three components of a political party's election strategy, 1) the allocation of candidates to different types of candidacy, 2) district assignments for SMD candidates, and 3) the placement of candidates on a PR election list. By analyzing six Lower House elections, which took place between 1996 and 2012, we find that the parties' efforts to strategically coordinate these three components has an impact on the number of women elected to Japan's Lower House. We also reveal that a high-ranking placement for a female candidate on a closed party list does not necessarily guarantee that she will win a PR seat, because the intertwined nature of the SMD and PR tiers makes outcomes in the SMD tier a prerequisite for winning in the PR tier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-99
Number of pages31
JournalAsian Women
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Japan's mixed system
  • Party nomination strategy
  • SMD vs. PR systems
  • Women's representation


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