NGOs are calling for a change to national election law that would require 30 per cent of spots on electoral lists to be occupied by women.
A report released yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) shows that 17.8 per cent of council members elected in June’s commune council elections were women.
The vast majority of them filled low-ranking council member positions, while less than five per cent were elected as commune chiefs.
Chor Chanthyda, Coordinator of the Project to Promote Women’s Political Representation, said the report’s findings demonstrate “a clear need for national legislation requiring specific quotas of women on candidate lists”.
Chanthyda added that “pending the implementation at the national level of a quota system, political parties should adopt internal policies to ensure that women make up 30 per cent of electoral lists”.
Ros Sopheap, executive director for NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, likewise advocated an electoral list quota for women of “at least 30 per cent”, based on her organisation’s roundtable discussions last month.
While the overall proportion of women elected this year is an increase from the 2007 commune elections’ 14.6 per cent, the CCHR report shows that small parties elected particularly low proportions of women, while the CPP elected a greater ratio of women to men.
Chanthyda said that these differences between parties were due largely to all parties’ practice of placing women toward the bottom of their electoral lists and assigning them few leadership roles.
This practice most significantly affects women in small parties, from which only a few candidates are elected – from the top of their parties’ lists.
New election laws should ensure that “the names of women candidates are equally distributed throughout the [candidate] lists”, Chanthyda said.
Cambodian People's Party National Assembly member Cheam Yeab said yesterday that his party always encourages women to participate in politics and noted that 20 per cent of his party’s newly elected commune council members are women.
“We will push to get 30 per cent next time,” he said.
He added that overcoming cultural attitudes, rather than establishing quotas, is the key to getting more women elected.
“We have to push the women to study and lead the country like men,” he said.
Ke Sovnnaroth, National Assembly member from the SRP – a party in which 11 per cent of newly elected commune council members are women – stressed that parties cannot increase women’s involvement without broader social and political change.
“This does not depend only on the political parties, but also on the government,” she said.
Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, could not be reached for comment.