New voting law will fail to boost female presence

11th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Parties circumventing rules meant to put more women in Congress

11 February 2008

MADRID - The 9 March general elections will be the first to take place under the Gender Equality Law, which says that party lists must have no fewer than 40 percent and no more than 60 percent of male or female candidates. The law was enacted to increase women's presence in political life. Yet all major parties have arranged their lists in such a way that females will likely continue to be underrepresented in Congress no matter what the outcome. If the poll yields similar results to the 2004 election, for instance, then only five more women will sit in Congress, bringing their total to just over 37 percent of the congressional body.

The Socialist Party, which pushed the law through, would lose two congresswomen, while the United Left would lose one. The opposition Popular Party (PP) would gain four congresswomen, while the Catalan nationalists of CiU would win three and the Canaries Coalition one.

The officials who drew up party lists did not need to resort to complicated operations to circumvent the spirit of the law. It was enough to use the usual trick: place men in the top positions and women in the lowest.

There are only a few provinces where women candidates make up 60 percent of the party list, but even there the top posts are generally reserved for men. In fact, men are top of the list in 75 percent of cases for both parties, just like in 2004. "What this underscores is that the principle of equality is not understood," said Soledad Murillo, secretary general for Equality Policies and one of the main supporters of the law. "Women's presence is still viewed as a legal obligation. Equality must be a democratic principle, not an imposition."

[Copyright EL PAÍS / Enric González / Carmen Morán 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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