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Women Mayors from Asia

> Tokyo Governor wins third term

> Women win a record number of mayorships in Turkish elections

> At 33, Shoko Kawata is Japan's youngest female mayor

> Turkish women are represented in almost non-existent numbers at all levels in local governments.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike defeats dozens of rivals to secure third term

Yuriko Koike wins strong mandate for a third term as Tokyo Governor

July 2024: Fending off more than 50 rivals, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has won re-election to a third term on Sunday (7 July 2024). She declared victory as soon as exit polls predicted that she received more than 40 per cent of the vote. Shinji Ishimaru a former mayor of a town in Hiroshima prefecture came second, with Renho, who Japan’s major opposition parties backed.


Yuriko Koike’s victory was welcomed by people close to Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. After losing three parliamentary by-elections to the opposition, the country’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LPD) badly needed a victory in Tokyo. In addition to gaining three more parliamentarians, the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) also recently won the governorship of the Shizuoka prefecture. Koike’s victory will help the Prime Minister who has faced calls to step down.


The main issues in the campaign included measures to improve the economy, disaster resilience for Tokyo and low birth numbers. When Japan’s national fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.2 babies per woman last year, Tokyo’s 0.99 rate was the lowest for the country.


Yuriko Koike’s policies focused on providing subsidies for married parents expecting babies and those raising children. Her challengers called for increased support for young people to address their concerns about jobs and financial stability, arguing that would help improve prospects for marrying and having families.


Another focus of attention was a controversial redevelopment of Tokyo’s park area, Jingu Gaien, which the Tokyo Governor approved. She was criticised for reaching her decision without paying enough attention to the development’s environmental impact.


Yuriko Koike was first elected governor of Tokyo in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Before her election to Tokyo City Hall, she served as environment and defence minister in LDP-led administrations.

Further reading: Japanese mayors


Women win a record number of mayorships in Turkish local elections

April 2024: In Turkey’s municipal elections, held on 31 March 2024, women candidates won the mayorships in eleven out of 81 metropolitan provinces. In addition, some 65 women were elected as district mayors. In the previous 2019 local elections, women mayors were elected in only four metropolitan provinces.


Six of the women elected as metropolitan mayors are from the centre-left opposition party CHP (Republican People's Party), four from the pro-Kurdish DEM (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and one from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s  AKP (Justice and Development Party). Women were elected in important cities such as Aydın, Diyarbakır, Eskişehir, Tekirdağ, Ağrı, Afyonkarahisar, Batman, Bilecik, Edirne and Siirt as well as in Gaziantep, where AKP Mayor Fatma Şahin was re-elected to a third term.


In the western city of Aydın, Özlem Çerçioğlu of the CHP was re-elected mayor, achieving a remarkable victory with more than 50 per cent of the vote. Çerçioğlu’s political career began in 2002 as a CHP deputy for Aydın. She is now beginning her third term as mayor.


Tekirdağ elected its first female mayor, Candan Yüceer, also from the CHP. Yüceer is a medical doctor by profession and an experienced politician with several terms as a CHP deputy.


In the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, Ayşe Serra Bucak Küçük from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ DEM Party was elected mayor, bringing her extensive background in education and social work to local politics.


In an interview with Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service, Nuray Karaoğlu, President of the Association for Supporting Women Candidates (KA.DER)*, described the 31 March local elections as a new page for women. "The results of the local elections herald not only a political change but also a social transformation," Karaoğlu said, describing the increase in the number of women executives as a result of women's long-awaited and desired struggle to be present in decision-making mechanisms.


While emphasising that these results were not enough, they nevertheless opened a door for women, Karaoğlu said. "The results will be regarded as a source of inspiration for future generations of women aiming for careers in politics. The victories for a record number of women candidates paved the way for a girl to be able to say 'I will be a mayor' when they ask 'what are you going to be'."


KA.DER is working to increase the number of women candidates from each party through training in different fields at the political academy it established.


Stating that KA.DER had been preparing for these elections for two years, Karaoğlu says that the women who were elected showed great determination and perseverance and showed that women can be the pioneers and leaders of society in every field.


* Founded in March 1997, KA.DER aims to increase the number of women in politics and in decision-making positions to achieve equal representation of women and men. KA.DER believes the different experiences and capabilities of women should also be reflected in social and political issues.


Sources: Deutsche Welle (Turkish service) and Frankfurt-based Turkish Minute, an independent news service reporting in English and Women Mayors' research.

Further reading: Women Mayors in Turkey


Japan’s youngest female mayor urges women not to be afraid to enter politics

February 2024: Despite the national and international prominence enjoyed by Tokyo’s female mayor Yuriko Koike, Japan has one of the lowest rates of women mayors among Western democracies. According to research by the Japanese Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office, of the country’s 1,741 municipalities, only 49 (= 2.8%) have women mayors.


While still not enjoying parity with men, women in some Western countries have become a force to be reckoned with in local politics. In the US, some 34 per cent of large cities are governed by women. In France, roughly a quarter of cities have women mayors, while in Spain, 40 per cent of cities have female leaders. Countries with low numbers of women mayors include Germany (9%) and Britain, where only one, of England’s ten regions with elected mayors has a woman at its helm.


Rightly or wrongly, Japan has long had a reputation as a country governed by old men. At all levels of government, women are still a rarity. The percentage of female parliamentarians in Japan’s House of Representatives is roughly 10 per cent. But Japanese women contemplating entering politics may have a new champion in the country’s youngest female mayor.


The Japan Times recently reported that in a sector where women are rarely seen at the forefront, 33-year-old Shoko Kawata made history by becoming Japan's youngest female city mayor when she was elected in Yawata (population 70,000), southern Kyoto Prefecture, in November 2023.


While the three political parties (Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan) that supported Shoko Kawata’s candidacy did so mainly to outsmart their political rivals rather than promoting the advancement of women in politics, the election of the young woman probably achieved just that.


In an interview with the Japan Times, the newly elected mayor said that the hurdles for women to enter politics remained high. “Before the election, people told me that I was fortunate just to be a candidate.” But Shoko Kawata quickly realised that she must grasp the opportunity handed to her and prove that women can succeed.


Now the Mayor of Yawata calls on women not to be afraid of entering politics because it is of great importance to show that female perspectives are also needed in the world.


There was still a long way to go, however, and it may take a long time to achieve diversity in politics, Kawata said, adding that there was a need to address the gap between citizens and politics in Japan. “Therefore, I hope women won't be afraid, won't think it's irrelevant to them, but will challenge themselves, participate and contribute,” Mayor Kawata told the Japan Times.


A native of Nara Prefecture, Kawata joined the Kyoto city government in 2015 and worked as a caseworker supporting residents' daily lives, among other positions. After leaving the city government, before running for mayor, Kawata served as a secretary to the female Upper House lawmaker Akiko Santo.


Sources: The Japan Times, the Japanese Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office and Statista.


Turkey’s political parties urged to nominate women candidates

December 2023: Turkey’s Women's Platform for Equality (EŞIK) called for more women to be nominated as candidates in local elections scheduled for 31 March 2024. In a statement, seen by Woman Mayors, the human rights organisation wrote that at least 50 per cent of local government candidates should be women. According to EŞIK, Turkish women are represented in almost non-existent numbers at all levels in local governments. According to the 2019 local election results, the female representation rate in local governments was only three per cent.


To ensure equal representation and implement equalising policies, the statement underlined that at least 50 per cent of the candidates nominated by the parties in the local elections should be women. "We urge political parties to nominate women for mayors from provinces, districts and towns where they have a high chance of being elected. Candidates to be nominated for municipal councils and provincial councils should be ranked as one woman and one man. Women should not be charged an application fee for candidacy applications, and practices such as 'compulsory donations' should be abandoned. Again, as a requirement of democracy, the candidate selection process should be conducted transparently."


On other pages

News pages: North American women mayors | South American women mayors | European women mayors | Asian women mayors |


Mayors' Code of Ethics | American Women Mayors | Canadian Women Mayors | Mexican Women Mayors | French Women Mayors | British Women Mayors | Polish Women Mayors | Dutch Women Mayors | Spanish Women Mayors | German women mayors | Obituary: Leila Mustapha, Mayor of Raqqa, who died aged 35 |

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