More women elected in municipal polls

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BEIRUT: Some 600 women were elected to municipal councils during recent elections – a 15 percent increase over 2010’s vote – according to new research. But experts are still not satisfied with the results, arguing that more needs to be done. There was also an increase in the number of women candidates in this year’s municipal elections, according to the research by the National Commission for Lebanese Women. The unofficial study, obtained by The Daily Star, showed that 599 women won seats. The initial research was compiled on June 2; Lebanon wrapped up its 2016 municipal elections in May when candidates competed for thousands of municipal seats.

This represents an increase of 79 from the 2010 municipal elections, in which 520 women candidates won seats. According the study, the total number of women candidates in the 2016 elections was 1,342, an increase from 1,080 in 2010. The study used voting lists from the Interior Ministry, explained Rita Chemaly, a project development consultant at NCLW.

According to Chemaly, there was at least one woman who won a mayoral post. “We didn’t want to wait to check what were the [official] rates of women winning the municipal elections, as we have worked on several campaigns related to political participation. ... We wanted to know how many women won [and] how many women were candidates,” she said.

“Therefore the NCLW team worked on counting the names of each person who won or who didn’t win in the elections ... female [names] were counted in each district.” The study didn’t count names that the team was unsure were female or male, Chemaly explained.

The study also broke down numbers for each of Lebanon’s governorates and their respective districts. There were 138 winners in Northern Lebanon out of 279 women candidates, compared to 229 winners out of 449 candidates in 2010. In Southern Lebanon there were 80 winners out of 185 candidates, compared to 59 out of 101 in 2010. In Mount Lebanon there were 227 winners out of 478 candidates in the latest elections, compared to 164 out of 367 in 2010. “We have the number of votes that each woman got, and the nice thing we saw is that many voted for women and their names weren’t crossed [off the voting lists],” Chemaly said, noting that some women garnered more votes than the candidates who were ultimately selected to be mayors. “But when we discover that we see only 599 won, compared to 520 in 2010, one would say that this isn’t a major jump. We have to work on other factors and indicators that we have to analyze as we study these municipal elections.”

Caroline Succar Slaiby, vice president of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, said she was not expecting the results. “I am really surprised because I imagined that more [women] would win in this round. This came from the hypothesis that women are [becoming] more aware and enthusiastic,” Slaiby told The Daily Star. She said that her optimism arose from the interest several women had shown in being part of local governance.

But the increase in the number of women winners did not fulfill the hopes that Slaiby had for these elections. Both Chemaly and Slaiby agreed that introducing quotas for the number of women on electoral lists – and municipal councils – was very important. “Quotas should be applied, even in municipalities, because I believe that if there were quotas in municipalities there would be at least 33 percent, which should be the minimum ratio of women, and we would see more women on municipal councils,” Slaiby said.

Regarding the reasons for this year’s results, she noted that political parties and families played a role, noting that families continue to trust men over women when it comes to political representation.

“Women, in places where there is pressure from political parties, tend to run away a bit from this [atmosphere],” Slaiby said, explaining that despite this, there are many women that are members of political parties.

“We have to work with politicians to pass quotas into law and work with political parties ... [because] they have the biggest role in naming candidates in the elections,” Chemaly said.

 

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