Turkey, women and PR lists

by Jack Santucci // Published June 6, 2007
The New Anatolian reports that traditionally 'exclusive' political parties are broadening their bases by moving to the center and, among other things, including more women in the process:

The Justice and Development (AK) Party was founded on the ashes of political Islam but its founders insisted that the party did not have any religious agenda. In the 2002 elections the candidates fielded by the AK Party was dominated by those from former Islamic political backgrounds.

This time that has changed.

The AK Party list shows that party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to give a message to the voters at home and the international community that it is moving closer to the center and its will underline its democratic and modern identity with its large women contingency.

The connection between proportional voting and fair representation of women is well documented. This works in separate but related ways.

Related because they address leadership's disincentive to nominate women under winner-take-all rules. Separate because there are slightly different mechanisms by which this happens.

With closed list systems like Turkey's, party leaders decide in what order candidates will appear on a party's list. Voters get to vote for a party (not a candidate). Seats are allocated to each party in proportion to their vote shares. If a party is entitled to ten seats, the first ten people in the list get them. Among other reasons, party leaders will place women high on lists to (1) broaden their support bases and (2) because some women (like men) would make qualified legislators, the closed list system insulates parties from the natural aversion of swing voters toward female candidates.

With candidate-based systems in low-magnitude multi-member districts (like choice voting), women again fare better. Under single-seat winner-take-all rules, the winning candidate needs to break 50% of the vote. In a close election where the outcome is dependent on swing voters, it's clearly a bad idea to nominate a woman.

In contrast with the proportional voting democracies, women do very poorly in our federal legislature. Yet another reason to get serious about a serious reform.