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How to court women voters

Tokyo, Oct. 30 (Reuters): Do you have dandruff' Bad breath' Are your socks smelly or your nose hairs in need of a trim'

Worried that female support for their party is lagging behind that for telegenic Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his ruling camp ahead of an election, Japan’s main opposition party has compiled a 21-page booklet on how to woo women at the polls.

Besides tips like those above, the guide also includes advice on smiling — important, but avoid forced grins; shaking hands — not too strong, not too limp; and how to sound sincere.

“The repeated message from women to politicians is: ‘I’m not saying you have to be flashy, but I’d like you to pay more attention to your clothes and appearance and act in a way that wouldn’t be embarrassing, even if you go abroad’,” says the guide distributed to opposition Democratic Party candidates.

Much of the advice seems like common sense. But a soggy support rate among women could be a real problem for the Democrats, now trying to oust Koizumi’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a November 9 general election.

The Democrats have been counting largely on their detailed policy manifesto to persuade voters they are the best choice to carry out vital reforms to fix Japan’s long-stagnant economy.

“Japanese politicians have ignored a lot of simple stuff for a long time... They often appear on TV in a way no American politician ever would...such as with their hair not washed,” said Steven Reed, a political science professor at Chuo University.

“It’s sort of silly and is usually criticised in Europe as the ‘Americanisation of politics’, but it’s clear that it has an effect. If you get it right, you get more votes.”

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