With parliamentary elections due in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan Region later this month, female politicians are hoping to have more women in the regional legislature, despite what they say is an uneven political arena that is unfair to women.
“I am running for a seat in order to have one less man enter the parliament,” said a female candidate for the September 21 polls, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We cannot keep waiting for a women's quota and for political parties to take us into the parliament.”
After increasing their numbers in the 111-seat parliament from 29 in the second term to 37 in the current third term, women activists are hoping to continue – or even accelerate – that trend.
“Unfortunately, until today nominating women candidates is highly manipulated by the parties,” said Hazha Sleman, who headed the Azadi-u-Adalat [Freedom and Justice] list in the 2009 elections and became the only candidate from the list to enter parliament.
“There is no confidence in women. The political parties have no confidence in women, even though there are many capable women,” she complained.
According to statistics from the Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC), there are 366 women and 736 male candidates for the upcoming elections.
“In the nomination phase the number is not small. It is getting close to half of the total number. But the question is, will the political parties advance the women candidates equally with men,” Sleman asked.
According to Rudaw's own count, the Democratic Solution Party (PCDK) has the highest number of female candidates, after which comes the Change Movement (Gorran). Then, then in descending order, are the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), the Communist party, Kurdistan Islamic Group, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and finally the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which has the least number of women candidates.
Hevar Ibrahim, a candidate for the Gorran list in Erbil, said that the party is paying greater attention to female candidates than in the past.
Among Gorran's 100 candidates, 33 are women. Ibrahim said that Gorran head Nawshirwan Mustafa is keen on female participation. “Women will elect their representative in the leadership council. This is a big step,” Ibrahim said.
Hassan Judi, the Director of PCDK's election office, said that women's participation is one of the major goals of PCDK. “We believe the number of women MPs must be no less than 50 percent,” he said. The party's list is headed by a woman, Najiba Mahmood.
Usually, political parties have limited the number of cabinet positions for women. The sixth and seventh cabinets both have had a single woman on board.
KDP candidate Hayat Majid Parxi said that women are just as capable of running leadership positions as men. “But since women have not been given the chance to do so, the work of women in this regard is not well presented,” she added. “There are many experienced and capable women in the lists.”