Turkey’s women candidates confront significant political challenges 2023

A campaign to get more women into Turkish politics centers on an unassuming apartment in Istanbul’s commercial district.

Ben Secerim, or I Choose, is disappointed as 61 million Turks prepare to vote in presidential and legislative elections.

Two years ago, the NGO was founded to increase female political engagement, especially through finding parliamentarians.

Ben Secerim introduced 20 women from four parties for the May 14 parliamentary election. However, because votes for parties are awarded to candidates according to their location on ranked party lists, only four have a chance of joining the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Ben Secerim president Nilden Bayazit called it “very disappointing.” Even liberal parties have barriers for women candidates. It demonstrates women still face numerous barriers and they don’t want to alter that.”

Their 20 vs. greater numbers two grafs down?

In a nation that granted women the right to vote in 1934, the overall picture is gloomy.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has nominated 113 women for 600 parliamentary seats, while the major opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has chosen 156. 40.5% of TIP candidates are women.

The amount of highly-placed women on party lists makes mainstream politics for women even bleaker. The CHP ranks women top in 11 of Turkey’s 87 electoral districts, while the AKP has four.

Women are underrepresented worldwide. Five nations have 50% or more female parliamentarians, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. 17.4% of 2018 Turkish lawmakers were women, ranking 132nd.

Turkey shows that patriarchal societies no longer prevent women from entering politics.

Last year, 62% of Ben Secerim and KONDA survey respondents felt female lawmakers would improve Turkey. Similar numbers backed obligatory political party quotas for women. Nearly three-quarters supported a family lady joining politics.

Bayazit claimed that female legislators are essential for a democratic society, justice, climate change, corruption, education reform, and family policy regulation.

Turkish women have traditionally led social justice campaigns. On March 8, hundreds of women march for equality and rights, frequently facing police riot shields and tear gas.

Turkey’s 2021 exit from the Istanbul Convention on women’s rights and subsequent attempts to repeal anti-discrimination laws have strengthened women’s participation.

Civil action has not led to female party politics.

Women are increasingly visible and influential in Turkey. Elmas Arus, a CHP Istanbul parliamentary candidate, noted this among civil society.

“There are not many directly [sitting] in the parliament but since it is in civil society, [women] have started to direct policies.”

Kirklareli, one of 20 Turkish provinces without a woman in parliament, is represented by Iyi Party lawyer Sibel Piskin. Despite data suggesting she is well-respected in the region, she is second on the party’s list and unlikely to win.

“I was not elected because I was second in the [2018] election and I am second again,” she stated.Naturally, motivation decreases. Society is ready for female politicians and believes they would improve the country.”

Many feel most political parties’ male-dominated hierarchy hinders women.

“The party organs are decisive in the nomination of women and unfortunately women are not sufficiently included in the party organs,” said Arus. “We see women and young people actively working in women’s or youth branches—it’s like they’ve been given a space. Male-dominated politics endures because women are not decision-makers.”

Arus, who heads the Zero Discrimination Association and is Roma, cited former Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, Iyi Party leader Meral Aksener, Istanbul CHP leader Canan Kaftancioglulu, and deputy CHP leader Selin Sayek Boke.

“They lead the people,” she remarked. Parties must change. A shift in attitude from party organs toward delegates will enable women in politics.

Arus suggested changing electoral legislation, noting Rwanda’s 61% female parliamentary representation, the world’s highest.

“Fighting gender discrimination, which prevents women from political leadership, is also crucial,” she said. “Legal and political mechanisms that fight discrimination must be implemented to increase women’s political participation.”

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