Quota system as the way to increase women’s political participation [Archives:2008/1139/Local News]

March 20 2008

SANA'A, March 16 ) A legal solution is the only option left for Yemeni women to participate effectively in the elections as candidates through the 15 percent quota recommended by the president Saleh in 2006. Floor Beuming Program advisor of the NDI concluded this at the second day of a seminar on elections reform in Yemen. “Most problems faced by women candidates in the past are not cultural but are political challenges,” she said. Women lacked the institutional protection they needed because political parties failed in increasing the representation of women as candidates from their political parties. Therefore, women were forced to run as independent candidates facing double burden of being a female as well as an independent candidate.

The quota system means either adding 45 seats to the 301 existing members of the Parliament or reserving 45 of the 301 seats creating 15 percent for women.

Bojien suggested a combination of two quotas is the best solution to women's political participation in the Shoura (Consultative) Council and the Parliament. In the Shoura council 15 percent means increasing women's presence from 2 to 17. But it will continue to be an advisory body whose members are nominated by the president. There is a risk that this will be largely symbolic. However, the parliamentary quota would give women the opportunity to compete in elections, they would be able to win seats by electoral power and have more responsibility than those women in the Shoura Council. Also the nomination would give women more exposure to the public and increase their experience in a competitive environment. Most of all, women's quota in the Parliament does not require any constitutional changes, only a few in the electoral laws and with a committed political will this can easily be achieved. According to legal experts and former candidates committee's research in 2003, female candidates complained that they were treated dismissibly by the very people who were responsible for the operating of the elections. Also the requirement to gather the 300 signatures of most of the electoral constituency in support of their candidacy as independent candidates was a big problem, which party candidates did not have to deal with.

“The question is: are women ready and qualified to participate in elections as candidates, and are the political parties ready to nominate them as representatives? Without sufficient training and qualification of female candidates women will not be able to compete adequately especially when they are let down by the political parties,” said Ilham Abdulwahab general director of the general department for women's affairs at the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum. She added that the legislations are made by men this is why they don't adhere to women's needs or demands.

The seminar was organized by the NDI in partnership with USAID and International Foundation for Election Systems. The seminar included discussions on the electoral system in Yemen and the bodies managing it. On voters list and registration, candidate nominations, campaign expenditure, counting and reporting, and the complaints systems.