Saleh calls on parties to grant women local council seats [Archives:2006/974/Front Page]

August 21 2006

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, Aug. 20 ) President Ali Abdullah Selah yesterday called on the other political parties to allocate a fair portion of their local council seats for women, adding that he hoped a woman would be nominated in the presidential election.

Saleh received approximately 200 women at the presidency office, representing various political parties, women's organizations and civil society organizations, who arranged a march yesterday morning, demanding political parties fulfill their promises to support and encourage women candidates to run in local elections.

As head of the ruling party, the General People's Congress (GPC), Saleh confirmed that the GPC will fulfill its promise to grant women 15 percent of its local council seats. He pointed out that he ordered the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) to support female candidates, whether they belong to political parties or are independent.

Rashida Al-Hamadani, head of the Women's National Committee, appreciated the president's attitude; however, she pointed to the difficulties of achieving notable change in such limited time. “Unfortunately, Monday is the last day to receive candidacy applications, which means women have a very limited time to apply,” Al-Hamadani noted.

Women's National Committee Vice Chairwoman Huryah Mashhoor said only 53 women candidates – including 26 women representing the GPC (21 at the district level and five at the governorate level) – will run in local council elections. “We depend on the parties' promises to encourage and support women's nomination; however, we were shocked to learn the number of women candidates,” she remarked.

Mashhoor pointed out obstacles women face within their political parties or if they're independent candidates. “Many parties prefer to support powerful social figures that impact society instead of supporting a woman. Additionally, independent candidates face legal restrictions; for example, they must receive a portion of votes for recommendation,” she explained.

Mashhoor also called for local and international support to pressure political parties to encourage women to run in the elections and support independent women candidates by removing obstacles facing their nomination.

“We call on all Yemeni women not to vote for parties refusing to support women for local council seats,” Yemeni Women's Union president Ramzia Al-Eryani stated, referring to the Islah party, which offers no women's nomination.

She noted that such parties are mobilizing women to vote, but have discouraged them from standing as candidates.

According to government statistics, the number of registered female voters has nearly tripled – from 15 percent of total voters in 1993 to 42 percent in 2003. However, during the same period, the number of female candidates running in elections fell from 42 percent to 11 percent.

Thirty-six of 125 women candidates won local council elections in 2001, including two at the governorate level in Aden and Abyan. At the district level, three women won the post of secretary-general – in the Capital secretariat, Ibb and Lahj – and one woman won Tahrir district's director-general post, the only Yemeni woman in such a position. The remaining 30 councilwomen are ordinary members of local district councils.