Mandatory quota for female representatives in electoral lists in Algeria | Ghania Khelifi, Algerian women, Setif, Elizabeth Grech
Mandatory quota for female representatives in electoral lists in Algeria Print
Ghania Khelifi   

Mandatory quota for female representatives in electoral lists in Algeria | Ghania Khelifi, Algerian women, Setif, Elizabeth GrechDozens of women have registered to stand for the legislative elections of the 10th May 2012.  The website of the town of Setif (Eastern Algeria) specifies that out of the 110 applications received, 85 were given by women, 45 among them are lawyers. The law adopted on the 3rd of November 2011 fixing the quota of 20 to 40% for the lists of candidates is not unknown in this rush for political competition.

Look for the woman !

Algerian women had always needed a big dose of courage to try and break the wall erected by the men of power. At every election, activists representing any political party have no chance of being elected or are often ignored during the preparation of the lists. The course of things is finally going to change for the next elections that will be held in May.

In the wake of the Arab Spring and due to pressure exerted by the West, President Bouteflika announced a series of political reforms including the establishment of a mandatory quota of female candidates. The proposal gave rise to a storm at the National Assembly dominated by men and the most unlikely arguments have been brought forward to block the road to women.

He even found Islamist or Democrat political leaders outraged by this “anti-democratic measure”. Some politicians have even complained about the inability to “find” women in the country, especially in the Saharan regions. This was the argument that was used to reduce the rate proposed by the president of the Republic.

A petition to support this project based on Article 31 of the Constitution related to promotion of the role of women in elected assemblies had circulated although some feminists had refused to sign it. They believed it was useless for Algerian women to be elected if they continued to be governed by the Family code that treats them like minors. In June 2011, the parliamentary commission in charge of political reforms received women’s organisations who recalled the condition of the Algerian women in terms of rights.

It is true that in this area, with only 5% of women in political structures, Algeria is lagging far behind Tunisia and Morocco. Only 1% of women are elected in municipal councils, 4% in the Senate and 7.7% in the National Assembly. The new text provides a rate of 20% of female representatives in the National Assembly elections. With regards to popular assemblies (local councils) elections, a rate of 30% is expected in localities with a population of more that 20 000 inhabitants.

This new system puts several political parties who have no female candidates or no woman in position to be one, in a very awkward position. The have to go hunting for candidates interested in joining their list. Some people absolutely denounce this “obligation to fill in the blanks”.

For the first time, party leaders will solicit Algerian women who have political ambitions. So far, they have just served as foils or catch-voters, rarely on top of the list and never playing a decision-making role. In fact, candidates usually carry the speech of their political family and have no other mission than to capture the female electorate. This is the reason why up till now, no woman has been elected on the basis of feminist demands.

Whatever the doubt hanging over the transparency of the next elections, women finally have the occasion to pit their strength against prejudice and social constraints. The Family code certainly does not recognise their status as full citizens but once again, they will be able to prove its obsolescence and its discrepancy with regards to their struggle. This is not equality yet but the gap between men and women will still be somewhat reduced.



Ghania Khelifi

Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech