Turkey elects three female metropolitan mayors in a first
Gültan Kışanak, will succeed Osman Baydemir, who also competed in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in this year’s elections. AA Photo
None of Turkey’s metropolitan cities have been governed by female mayors until the March 30 local elections and now not one, but three women have made history after being elected to the helm on opposite sides of the country.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate for the southeastern province of Gaziantep, Fatma Şahin, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-mayoral candidate for the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, Gültan Kışanak, and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate for the Aegean province of Aydın, Özlem Çerçioğlu, took over three metropolitan cities, representing three different parties and gaining remarkable support from voters.
Şahin, former Family and Social Policies Minister, who was removed from her post as part of a cabinet reshuffle in December, has won the race against her male rivals, maintaining her party’s strong electoral support in the big city.
Besides serving as minister for over two years, she has served as an AKP lawmaker for three terms, as the first woman representing Gaziantep in Parliament.
She claimed more than half of the votes in the March 30 election to become the new head of the 1.7million-populated city that undertakes a remarkable part of Turkey’s trade.
Kışanak, another experienced parliamentarian and co-leader of the BDP, also beat her rivals in the Kurdish-dominated province of Diyarbakır, running for the post alongside Fırat Anlı, in line with her party’s co-leadership model adopted to support female presence in the political arena.
She will succeed Osman Baydemir, who also competed in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in this year’s elections, in running the city of 1.5 million.
At the far end of the country, Çerçioğlu, who was named as the mayor of Aydın in the 2009 elections, has been re-elected in this year’s elections. However, this time she has marked her name as the first female metropolitan mayor, along with Kışanak, as Aydın became a metropolitan city in November 2012.
A prominent industrialist, who also served as a CHP deputy between the years of 2002 and 2009, Çerçioğlu has become the first female mayor of her party and Aydın in the 2009 elections.
Meanwhile, another female candidate, Dilek Hatipoğlu, was elected the first female mayor in the eastern province of Hakkari.
Women’s poor representation in politics, especially in local government posts, has been a great source of concern and despite promising ambitious plans, leading political parties in the country have recorded a weak performance regarding the issue.
The BDP and its sister party People’s Democracy Party (HDP) have been sensitive about the issue by nominating women at rates of 55.3 percent and 72.8 respectively.
However, its counterparts have failed in the task, as only 1.15 percent of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayoral and local assembly member candidates were female, while this rate was 4.32 percent for the CHP and 2.51 percent for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Turkey ranked 68th out of 187 countries in gender disparities, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2012 Gender Inequality Index Rank.
Only 14 percent of Turkish Parliament members are women, or 79 MPs out of 548. Turkey, therefore, ranks 92nd out of 188 countries according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) latest data on Women in National Parliaments.