Where is women’s place in local government?

Where is women’s place in local government?

Tolga Şardan
Dec. 5 was the 79th anniversary of the day Turkish women were granted the right to vote and to be elected. 

The confusion in the domestic and external agenda caused this gain to be celebrated less than it deserved. 

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and friends, aiming to give Turkish women earn the place they deserve, based on the 1926 dated Civil Law, granted suffrage to Turkish women in 1930 in local elections. Next, in 1932, Turkish women were given the right to be elected muhtar (village head), as well as become members of village councils. Finally, on Dec. 5, 1934, women were given the right to elect and be elected. 

Thus, since Dec. 5, 1934 Turkish women have begun finding places for themselves within Turkish political life. 

However, starting from Parliament to local government, the percentage of women is still quite low.

In the Local Governments Evaluation Report prepared by the Interior Ministry based on 2012 figures, women’s situation in local government can be seen very clearly. 

In Turkey, currently, there are 2,950 mayors; 2,923 of them are men, 27 of them are women. When viewed as percents, it appears to be 99.08 percent to 0.92 percent. When local councils are viewed, out of the total 31,790 municipal assembly members, only 1,340 of them are women, corresponding to 95.78 percent men to 4.22 percent women.

According to the evaluation, there are a total of 3,379 people in provincial local assemblies, 96.74 of them, corresponding to 3,269 members, are male whereas 3.26 percent of them, that is 110 members are women. 

In Turkey, there are 34,275 village heads at the moment. Out of this total, 34,210 of them are men, corresponding to 99.81 percent. The percentage of women village heads is near to zero. Only 65 villages have women as their head. Their percentage is 0.19 percent. The situation is not very different in village councils. Against 137,848 male members in village councils, there are only 329 female members, which correspond to 99.76 percent to 0.24 percent. 

In neighborhoods in the cities, gender distribution in heads of neighborhoods is a bit different. 

The number of neighborhood heads nationwide is distributed as follows: 18,178 men to 429 women.
The ratio is 97.69 percent male to 2.31 percent women.

The situation of local councils in neighborhoods is this: Against 71,174 male members of councils, there are 1,409 female members in local councils in neighborhoods. The statistics are 98.06 percent to 1.94 percent. 

The general total of the report actually shows a clearer picture. In the general total, against 298,052 male local politicians there are only 3,709 female local politicians trying to be active in politics at the local level. The average ratio is 98.77 percent to 1.23 percent. 

In days when the election calendar starts ticking for local elections, political parties announce their candidates one after the other. 

This is the male/female equilibrium in Turkey in local politics. 

Let us see how this picture is going to change after the 2014 local elections? 

The expectation is that generally the figures will change in favor of women; however, when the candidates announced are viewed, the situation is again not very heartwarming from the point of women. 

Tolga Şardan is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on Dec. 9. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.