Thirty per cent quota may not translate into female candidates taking their fair share of seats in October 4 polls. On paper, women are well represented as candidates in Kyrgyzstan’s forthcoming parliamentary election. But despite legal guarantees of representation, there is no guarantee that they will do as well as might be expected.
The October 4 election will use a proportional representation system in which each political party presents a candidate list, from which individuals are awarded seats according to the party’s overall share of the vote. Thirty per cent of seats are supposed to go to women.
Erik Iryskulbekov, a lawyer with the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, says that all parties have fulfilled the legal gender quota for their lists, but this will not automatically translate into women receiving a fair share of the seats awarded.
“There have been many cases when registered candidates stepped aside before the start of the first [parliamentary] session. It’s up to the political party to choose,” he said.
According to Guljan Beybatova, an NGO activist, “Kyrgyz parties are self-financing, and some seats are for sale.”
A cursory examination of the various parties’ lists suggests that majority of women listed have already served in the parliament, or else they are financially well-off.
One new trend in this election is the emergence of some new faces such as journalists Aida Kasymalieva and Lunara Mamytova.
There has been some progress on female representation. The current justice and education ministers and the last chief prosecutor are women.
Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state to have had a female president. Roza Otunbaeva served as interim head of state in 2010-11, and she says the fight for equality is still ongoing.
The last election, held in 2010, created a parliament in which 23 per cent of seats were held by women, although this has since shrunk to 19 per cent.
Local government is some way behind national institutions. There are no female mayors, and only one of the 44 district administrations is headed by a woman.
Erkayim Sadykova, a town councillor in Kadamjay, says women are so outnumbered by men that they struggle to build alliances to get their proposals on the agenda. For example, it took her nine months to secure state funding for medical examinations for vulnerable groups of women.
Natalia Nikitenko, a former member of parliament now standing as a candidate for the Ata Meken party, says women are very active in many areas. For example, the majority of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan were set up by women who have led them successfully over many years. Nikitenko argues that talented women with leadership skills just do not consider entering parliament.
“It just doesn’t occur to them,” she said.
A functioning parliamentary system is still fairly new in Kyrgyzstan, and Nikitenko says people need to become more aware of the role of political parties so that they start nominating women as candidates at local and national level.
Aytunuk Nurdinova is an IWPR contributor in Kyrgyzstan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Kyrgyz on national radio stations in Kyrgyzstan. It was produced under two IWPR projects, Investigative Journalism to Promote Democratic Reform, funded by the European Union; and Strengthening Capacities, Bridging Divides in Central Asia, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU or the Norwegian government.