Women boost battle for Czech council seats

Photo: European Commission

A record number of women are running in this years’ local elections in the Czech Republic. According to figures released by Forum 50 %, which promotes the equal representation of women in politics, the proportion of women running in local elections has doubled over the past twenty years. However, despite the positive trend, the Czech Senate still remains largely male-dominated territory. I spoke to Jana Smiggels-Kavková of Forum 50% about the outcome of their survey:

Jana Smiggels-Kavková,  photo: Czech Television
“Over the past twenty years that we have had elections to local assemblies we now have the largest number but also the largest share of women running in the elections. It’s a little over thirty percent, if you take into account all the municipalities in the Czech Republic, which is a very large amount. It is true that there are more and more people running in general. But the number of women that are running is increasing faster than the number of men, so the share of women running in the elections is getting bigger.”

Why do you think that is?

“The local level is the only level of politics where we can see this positive trend with the proportion of women slowly, but continuously increasing. I think the reasons why it is easier for women to get involved in local politics is that there is not such a big competition as there is at the top political level. It is also easier for women to pursue their political career without having to move to Prague and combine the many roles they usually have, meaning political life, but also their family and job.”

So the proportion of women running for seats in the Senate still remains pretty low, is that right?

“It is not only that it remains low, it is actually decreasing, so there is exactly the opposite trend if you compare the local elections and elections to the Senate. This year sees the third lowest number of women running for the Senate. It is only around 15 percent. The number has been decreasing in the last ten years, so there is a negative trend.”

Photo: European Commission
Why do you think it is getting worse?

“There is a different electoral system, majoritarian system, with each party nominating only one candidate in each district. And it is a well-known fact that this system is less beneficial for women. If the parties have to decide who is going to be the one person running for them in a specific district, they will always prefer men to women.”

Would you say that the proportion of women in politics in the Czech Republic remains low?

“Definitely, even in local administration, where the number is the highest, as I said. At the moment, it is around 26 percent in local municipalities, which is still lower than the thirty percent which is known as the so-called “critical mass”. It is the critical number that is needed for women or any other social group if they want to be able to present themselves as a group and have their own agenda and pursue their own interests.”