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Electoral Quotas to Promote Women’s Engagement in Politics

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Friday, December 15
On December 12, at the conference organized by Parliament’s Gender Equality Council a draft bill on mandatory gender quotas was discussed. The initiative is equally supported by the ruling party Georgian Dream (GD), the European Georgia and the United National Movement (UNM). According to the bill, mandatory quotas will improve the representation of female members in Parliament.

The legislative proposal was elaborated by the Task Force on Women’s Political Participation and the coalition of local and international organizations that have advocated for gender equality and women’s political participation. The draft bill was submitted to Parliament with 37 000 signatures on June 28 this year and includes initiatives on implementing the so called “zipper” system, where male and female candidates will appear alternately on party lists of parliamentary and local elections. The draft bill also provides for an article on replacement of MP, in case a mandate of MP terminates earlier than the parliamentary term, another candidate of the same gender shall take up the parliamentary seat.

The bill on mandatory gender quotas are supported by the representatives of all parliamentary political parties. Member of the ruling GD MP Eka Beselia says that the bill should be adopted even earlier and hopes for an accelerated process of adoption. The same stance is voiced by one of the leaders of UNM Tina Bokuchava stating that it is “better to adopt what is being discussed today than adopt nothing.” Member of European Georgia and former candidate of Tbilisi Mayor Elene Khoshtaria has urged that she will “actively and seriously consider supporting the bill.” MP Ada Marshania from the Alliance of Patriots has also confirmed that the “faction will endorse the legislative proposal.”

If the bill is approved, political parties will have to provide for equal number of female and male election candidates. It is anticipated that this will result in at least 38 female MPs in 2020 and at least 75 female MPs in 2024 when the country will be move to fully proportional system of parliamentary elections.

According to Inter-Parliament Union’s world classification which is based on information provided by National Parliaments until October 1, 2017, among 193 countries, Georgia takes 128th place with only 16% of female MPs. Although, the Georgian legislation considers financial incentives for political parties that have female candidate in their lists, the statistic proves that the regulation has not been successful so far.

Georgia is not an exception trying to solve the issue of gender inequality by introducing mandatory quotas for women in Parliament. Many countries have opted for this solution, however, some countries have faced the controversy in attitudes.

Quotas are widely used among EU Member States and take a variety of forms, including voluntary and legislated quotas for electoral candidates to national Parliaments. Most EU Member States have voluntary party quotas, however, some opt for legislated. In Belgium, the number of both gender candidates on electoral lists should be equal and two top candidates cannot be of the same gender. In France political parties are instructed to contribute to equal access of men and women to elective positions. In Poland, 35% of electoral candidates should be female. Portugal defines the minimum threshold of electoral candidates of both genders as 33%. In Slovenia, the minimum representation is 35% for each gender. Greece requires that at least 1/3 of electoral candidates on the lists should be female.

Though, a number of European countries do practice legislated quota system, none of them have so called “zipper” system as an instrument for legislated quotas, which arises some questions how the proposed initiative shall be implemented in Georgia by 2018.

Table 1.1 provides how quotas are defined in EU countries.

Sources: European Commission’s Network to Promote Women in Decision-making in Politics and the Economy. Working Paper on “The Quota-Instrument: Different Approaches Across Europe.”