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Parties fail to keep word on women's nominations

Parties fail to keep word on women's nominations

The Kingdom's three major political parties have failed to keep their promise to

provide 30 percent representation to women in the February, 2002 commune council

elections.

Despite the commitments made before the electoral process began, women represent

only 13.15 percent of the total 25,691 candidates registered by the ruling CPP for

seats in the 1,621 commune councils. Funcinpec and the SRP have 13.74 and 20.40 percent

respectively of positions for women on their candidate lists.

In a further twist, the country's election monitoring organizations said the figures

might yet prove even more unimpressive: each party provides a slate of candidates,

but those names at the lower end of the list stand almost no chance of getting a

seat.

Each commune will have between five and 11 seats, depending on its size and population,

and voters will cast their ballot for individual political parties. Seats will be

allocated among the names on their lists in the proportion of votes that party receives.

Commune election law states that the candidate at the top of the list of the party

that receives the highest number of votes in a commune will become commune council

chief. The party with the second highest number will be awarded the deputy chief

position. The remainder of the seats would be allocated in proportion to each party's

share of the vote.

"Most parties have registered double the number of candidates than there are

seats in a given commune to guard against disqualification of, or withdrawal by,

some candidates. If women have been registered only as back-up candidates, not many

will be able to make it," said Panha Koul of the election monitoring body Comfrel.

Prak Vanny, executive director of women's organization Khemara, said it was regrettable

that women's representation was lower than promised.

"This [low registration of women candidates] reflects men's tendency to hold

on to the positions of power and not share it with women," she said.

Chea Vannath, president of Coffel, echoed her sentiments, saying political parties

were still not sincere about the issue of gender equality in politics and were using

women only to pull crowds for party propaganda. She cited the example of a candidate

from Kratie province, whose name was appended to the bottom of the candidate list

just because she had good oratory skills.

"[The party] told her it will be a good idea if she campaigned for them during

the elections," she said, quoting the candidate.

The CPP and SRP, when contacted by the Post, reasoned that finding the right candidates

was a problem as women were still not ready for an active political role in their

local communities.

Ou Bun Long, SRP senator and in charge of election affairs, said his party had nominated

a considerably higher number of women compared with its rivals, and said the majority

of them were in the top 10 bracket.

"In Phnom Penh alone, we have nominated women as our first candidate in 8 of

the 76 communes. All these communes have a strong SRP presence and we are sure these

women will become commune chiefs," he said.

The electoral bodies however agreed that considering how women have historically

been denied the chance even to add their names to candidate lists, a nomination rate

of more than 10 percent for the commune elections was indeed laudable.

"We hope that the quality [of the women candidates] will compensate for quantity

this time, and that step by step the involvement of women will help change the legacy

of political violence in the kingdom," Vannath said. Of the total 75,244 candidates

registered for the commune council elections, 12,053 are women,or 16 percent of the

total nominations.

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