Iraqi women make gains in parliamentary elections

The strong showing of female candidates during the April 30 Iraqi elections reflect a change in this traditionally male-dominated society.

al-monitor Female Iraqi candidates attend a debate forum in Baghdad, April 19, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.

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women’s rights, women, iraqi women, iraqi politics, iraqi parliament, iraqi elections, iraq

Jun 12, 2014

During the Iraqi parliamentary elections held April 30, female candidates outperformed many of their male peers and transformed themselves into key players in the electoral scene. In the previous elections, there were 73 female candidates, while on the April 30 elections, there were 83.

According to the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq, 22 out of 83 total female members of parliament (out of a total of 328 seats), won their parliamentary seats without relying on the quota system. However, only three out of these 22 women won through independent votes and not through the votes granted to their lists.

Hanan Fatlawi, a candidate from the Babil province for the State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, ranked first among female candidates with 90,781 votes. She also came in seventh place overall and was the only woman listed among the top winners. Most of the rest was occupied by leaders of coalitions, with Maliki at the top with 721,782 votes.

In accordance with the amended Sainte-Lague method, like other coalition leaders, Fatlawi's winning of more votes than needed to secure a seat contributed to the victories of other male candidates on the State of Law list in Babil.

Another candidate for the State of Law Coalition in Diwaniyah, Houda Sajjad Mahmoud, ranked second on the female winners list with 39,691 votes, followed by Najiba Najib, a candidate for the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Dahuk, with 29,486.

Many believe that because women proved able to compete with coalition leaders in terms of votes reflects a change among Iraqi voters, especially after three rounds of elections were held post-2003 in the male-dominated society.

Najib told Al-Monitor: “Women winning parliamentary seats without the help of a quota system indicates that there is a shift in the awareness of Iraqi voters. Many of them are taking into consideration the ability of the candidate to convince them and express their will, regardless of the candidate’s gender.”

Najib, who also won a parliamentary seat in the previous round, explained: “As we all know, the women’s quota system is usually applied in male-dominant societies to preserve the share of women. If we compare current and past results, one can note the relative shift in the way Iraqis are dealing with the issue of women running for parliamentary elections.”

She added: “Women proved that they are no different from men if circumstances were suitable for them to perform their parliamentary task in the best way possible.”

The female winners hope for the next round of elections to be more just for women, notably in terms of executive posts, contrary to the composition of the last government.

Said Fatlawi: “Votes grant women more power, enthusiasm and popular support within the parliament. This should also be reflected on the representation of women in the three premierships and executive positions.”

Fatlawi told Al-Monitor that women are “seeking to assume ministries and key positions, contrary to the last government, whose form was unjust toward women," explaining, "In the 2010 government, women were granted the Ministry of Women’s Affairs only. Plus, women were not represented in the three premierships.

“We hope to overcome the sexist complex characterizing [Iraqi] political coalitions.”

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