Can Erdogan Make Room for Women in the AKP Congress?

Turkey regularly cites that more than 14% of its lawmakers are women, writes Meral Tamer, but the feeble female ratio of 1.2% at a local electoral level is rarely mentioned. She examines the female representation within Turkey’s leading parties. 

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Sep 28, 2012

The [Justice and Development Party’s (AKP)] Fourth General Congress on Sunday is important in many respects. It has vital importance for Turkey’s future. We will all watch it carefully and assess it according to our own priorities.

My priority is whether an adequate number of women will be elected to the AKP’s new governing bodies.

In recent days I had a chance to discuss this issue privately with Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and Minister of Families and Social Policies Fatma Sahin. Both said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists on having one woman and one young person for every five politicians in provincial party structures.

Sahin said that in some cases — although the lists were drawn up according to Erdogan’s instructions — at the last minute, in corridor bargaining, ‘Aishas’ were crossed out and replaced by ‘Alis’ in order to preserve the male domination of the party.

AKP’S 20% women quota

Deputy PM Arinc said that according to the prime minister’s guidelines, a 30-member provincial party structure must have 7 women and a 50-member structure must have 10. He told me that Erdogan thanked the Bursa provincial party administrators for complying with the ratio he wanted.

Although Erdogan insists that he is against setting quotas for women, he is in fact working hard within the AKP to achieve the 20% quota. I hope that after the General Congress, the same effort will be exerted for that ratio in local elections next year.

It was 0.5 % in local elections, it is now 5 %

In last general elections, 79 women were elected to the National Assembly and the female ratio in the parliament went up to 14.4 %. But we easily forgot the disgraceful [female ratio of] 1.2% in local elections. In international forums our ministers boast of this 14.4%, but don’t ever mention the 1.2%.

In the 2004 local elections the AKP had 0.5 % women elected. Under Erdogan’s pressure this went up to 5% in 2009. To achieve 20% in the next local elections, AKP women should start working from now and show their presence.

Kurdish BDP far ahead

How do the other three parties in the parliament fare? The Peace and Democracy Party [Kurdish BDP] that has almost achieved gender equality is also far ahead of others in local administrations. There are 26 women mayors in Turkey — 14 of them [53.8%] are from BDP. The same applies to municipal councils and provincial assemblies. In the BDP’s own local structures, the ratio of women is 14.58% but the BDP’s female politicians find this inadequate and are aiming for 33% in the next elections.

Women unheard of in MHP

The National Movement Party [MHP] is the total opposite of the BDP. Women are unheard of, even though there are so many highly-qualified women in the party. They have to come forward and run for the elections. If out of 400 MHP mayors in Turkey only one is a woman — and if against 406 male MHP provincial assembly members there are only 4 MHP women — not only the MHP’s men but also its women, who have been serving that party, should try to change this embarrassing picture.

Our CHP expectations are high

The [Republican People’s Party (CHP)] is not all that promising, but its 2009 results were better than AKP’s. Former chairman Deniz Baykal did not give any special support to women but nevertheless secured a 6.5% female representation. As the CHP’s latest national convention decided on a 33% women quota in all party organs, we have high expectations from the CHP in the coming local elections.

We know of so many highly qualified women within the CHP and wish that they would begin working from now to break the domination of men in the party.

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