Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chile's Bachelet Institutes 'Quotas' for Women in Politics

Chile's Michelle Bachelet is working to help women achieve equal political power in her country according to this article by the Santiago Times. She's just signed a bill that aims to double the current number of women participating in politics by doubling the number of female candidates in the general elections. It has specific percentages of women and men that must be run in the next election and that must be part of the political leadership of parties. The bill still needs to be debated but I think it's wonderful that Bachelet is taking steps to address the underrepresentation of women in her country's legislatures.

Although quotas are a controversial step, I think that there are some real advantages to them. It changes the political climate for women. Women know that they are welcome in that realm and that it will not be a struggle against sexism to put themselves forward and run. It allows women of real quality to be appreciated for that quality. Anyone who thinks that quotas simply allows unqualified women to lead, has a very low opinion of women and their leadership. As someone who engages with female leaders, in and outside of politics, I must say there is so much incredible talent and passion that countries need to make use of.


The bill also gives new responsibilities to political parties. According to the proposed legislation, party leadership must not be more than 70 percent male or female, and the same rule will apply to the lists of candidates that parties turn in before general elections. There will also be economic incentives favoring female candidates, in order to better support women who get elected.

These incentives will be available to parties that incorporate more female members and candidates than the legal minimum. “We are creating a law that will promote equal political participation by men and women,” said Bachelet. “We are taking another step to guarantee and strengthen the rights and opportunities of women in civic, political and institutional life, and in public service.”Party for Democracy (PPD) members expressed support for the initiative. Deputies Ximena Vidal and Laura Soto said Monday that the percentage requirements in the bill will help enact “changes to strengthen democracy that we need so badly.”

The Christian Democratic Party (DC) and the National Renovation Party (RN) also backed the bill. Members from both parties were especially pleased with the measures involving percentage requirements and economic incentives. “The President’s promotion of incentives to motivate political parties to involve and promote women that are elected is a RN proposal, so we absolutely support all of those parts of the bill,” said the party’s general secretary Lily PĂ©rez.

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