Women absent from Turkey’s local polls, except in BDP

Based on preliminary electoral lists released by Turkey’s major parties, the upcoming municipal elections will be mostly devoid of female candidates, except for the list of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

al-monitor Gultan Kisanak (C), co-leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), makes a speech on the killing of three female Kurdish activists, Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, Jan. 10, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Sertac Kayar.

Topics covered

women, turkey, municipal elections, justice and development party

Jan 9, 2014

Following my three-part series on women running global affairs, friends from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) asked me to turn the spotlight on the upcoming municipal elections. They have good reason for that. So, yesterday [Jan. 7] I called the deputy chairs in charge of elections of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to compile the latest figures. Unfortunately, the state of women aspiring to take part in local administration is again deplorable. In the BDP, however, the situation is just the opposite: women are at the forefront. Well done!

Women make up only 4.2% of CHP candidates

On March 30, elections will be held for a total of 1,395 provincial, district and town municipalities. With less than three months to go before the polls, the CHP has yet to field candidates for 649 municipalities. So, when are they going to be fielded and start electioneering?

Out of the 746 CHP candidates announced so far, only 31, or 4.2%, are women. What happened to the 33% female quota the CHP fixed for all party levels at its latest convention? The proportion is unlikely to change when the remaining 649 candidates are announced in the coming days. We are looking forward to see who will run for the mayor’s posts in the districts of Istanbul and Izmir, hoping that the CHP will prove us wrong.

Our only solace is that the CHP has fielded women to run for mayors in six provinces — Aydin, Bolu, Karaman, Sivas, Tokat and Rize — even though the CHP does not stand much chance of winning in most of those regions.

MHP women make up only 1.3%

According to figures provided by the MHP, the party has designated 1,000 of its 1,395 candidates. Only 13 of them are women, corresponding to 1.3%. Unfortunately, the MHP — the most male-dominated party — is recklessly refusing to take advantage of female potential even though many able pro-MHP women are willing to do politics. Still, the situation does not surprise me since the party has been like this forever. I had a glimmer of hope that things might change this time, but to no avail.

Where are AKP’s women?

When it comes to the AKP, we all know that the party has built its success on the painstaking efforts of women. This has been true ever since the National Order Party of Necmettin Erbakan. Yet, major barriers exist within the AKP impeding the rise of women from the grassroots to upper positions.

Earlier this week, Internet media published the list of AKP candidates in 299 districts in 34 of the [81] provinces. The party’s deputy chairman in charge of elections, Menderes Turel, denied the list, but it doesn’t really matter in terms of gender proportions. Only six women figure among the candidates in 299 districts.

So far, the AKP has officially announced only its candidates for the mayor’s posts in provincial capitals. [Former Family and Social Policies Minister] Fatma Sahin is the only woman among them, running in Gaziantep. Our solace is that she has been fielded in a region where she stands a strong chance of winning.

BDP stands out

The BDP’s women, who had struggled hard to install the 40% quota and the co-chairmanship system in the party, are poised for another pioneering move in the March 30 municipal elections. The party’s co-chairmanship system will be hereafter implemented at all levels in local administrations. It is a major step forward that should serve as an example for others.

A while ago, the BDP announced its female candidates. They represent 32 of the party’s candidates for 63 municipalities. Moreover, the BDP also announced the names of the women who would serve as co-mayors in the remaining 31 municipalities. In most of those regions, the BDP’s victory is obviously in the bag. Accordingly, there are also male candidates for co-mayors, as in the case of [BDP co-chair] Gultan Kisanak, who is standing for the metropolitan mayor’s office in Diyarbakir.

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