Women fail to make big gains in local Turkish polls

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Although Turkey's recent local elections led to a slight increase in female mayors, most are from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, with very few gains for women in the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Yesterday [April 1] our newspaper published the list of women mayors elected in the local elections, according to preliminary results. I managed to add several names to the list after poring over vote totals from various provinces. The figures I came up with do not represent the official results. The number of female mayors elected in small rural constituencies may still be incomplete. Yet the existing figures, I think, allow us to make an overall assessment.

A total of 35 female mayors were elected in big cities, districts and rural constituencies, according to the available count, meaning the figure has increased by nine [from the previous elections]. But given that the overall number of mayoral posts shrank from 2,950 to 1,395 [under legal amendments], the increase becomes more significant. In other words, the proportion of female mayors, which used to pull Turkish women down in international rankings, has risen from 0.08% to 2.5%. No doubt the figure is still pathetic, but it represents a fourfold proportional increase and may reach 3% with the final results from rural constituencies.

BDP is source of pride

Let’s see how individual parties performed. The women of the [Kurdish] Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) had expended great efforts to establish a 40% quota and a system of co-leadership [a man and a woman] in the party. In the latest election, they set another landmark by extending the co-chairs system to all levels of local administration. It is a pioneering achievement that should serve as an example.

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Out of the 32 female candidates the BDP fielded for the 63 municipalities it contested, 21 were elected. Diyarbakir will be now run by Gultan Kisanak, and Hakkari by Dilek Hatipoglu. Moreover, the BDP’s winning males will now have a female co-mayor.

Kisanak had set the target as “one female mayor for every three metropolitan municipalities we take.” They have achieved this target, too. The 11 cities the BDP won include three metropolitan municipalities: Van, Mardin and Diyarbakir, where Kisanak herself was elected. It should be noted that Ahmet Turk, who won in Mardin, ran as an independent candidate due to a political ban [that bars him from membership in a political party]. Hence, officially, the BDP will hold two metropolitan municipalities. So, kudos to the go-getter Kurdish women.

Shame on CHP

When it comes to the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (AKP), the outcome is a real disgrace.

What happened to the 33% female quota the CHP set for all levels when it last amended its charter?

Sit tight. The number of the CHP’s female mayors has hardly increased. The party had six female mayors in the 2009 local elections, now it seems to have seven. Aydin Mayor Ozlem Cercioglu was re-elected with considerably greater support compared with her first win. CHP officials had boasted of fielding female candidates in six big cities. But does this really mean anything if the women are fielded in cities where the CHP stands no chance of winning, like Bolu, Karaman, Sivas, Tokat and Rize?!

AKP moves from three to six

When it comes to the AKP, we all know that the party has built its success on the industrious work of women. This has been true ever since Necmettin Erbakan’s National Order Party. Yet, major obstacles continue to keep women from climbing the ladder from the grassroots to management. The AKP had three female mayors in the 2009 elections; now it has six. True, Fatma Sahin, a woman with a proven political record, won the metropolitan municipality in Gaziantep. But I’m confident that many women in the AKP were perfectly fit for mayoral posts in many districts. Let’s hope the figure will increase by one or two with the results from rural constituencies.

In the MHP, on the other hand, women remain on the sidelines. The party produced no female mayors in the 2009 elections and now it has only one, though I personally know many accomplished women in MHP ranks. What a pity!

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Found in: women, turkey, kurds, justice and development party, elections, bdp, akp
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