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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Cantonales. Les femmes, ces grandes perdantes

by Mina Kaci

Cantonal Elections. Women Are The Big Losers

Translated Saturday 2 April 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Women make up 13.8% of the winners in the French cantonal elections because most often they occupy the “substitute” position on the electoral lists (they take the place of the usual elected representative when that person is unable to attend.)

It wasn’t difficult for the political parties to respect the 2008 law on male-female parity. All they had to do was to apply the letter of the law, which forces them to present “a male candidate and a female substitute or else a female candidate and a male substitute.”

As a result, women make up 13.8% of the general councilors elected in the cantonal elections. They are even bigger losers than the UMP party in this vote, which has put an overwhelming majority of men in general councilor armchairs.

Even before the elections, it was known that the physiognomy of the départemental assemblies would not change, with men making up 82% of the candidates in the number one slot. Women were put in second position, as substitutes.

Thus, of the 3,124 people running in the “candidate” position in the 1,566 cantons in the second round of the elections in the French départements, 2,561 were men. The male chauvinist tradition that persists in French political organizations is a reminder that the two-round voting system [1] does not favor female parity in politics, either.

The use of this voting system in the future territorial councilor elections “does not put male-female parity on the path to improvement,” was the concern of the Observatoire de la parité. [2] Proportional representation remains a new idea, and the argument is invalid that says that it is ruled out in France because it would benefit the extreme right-wing National Front.

Some people put on a terrified face on Monday at the news from Saudi Arabia that women will have neither the right to vote nor to run in the municipal elections set for April 23, 2011, a right which Frenchwomen obtained in 1945. But acceding to power, even at the local level, remains a struggle in France, as in Saudi Arabia.

[1The two-round system is a voting system used to elect a single winner. The voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. However, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of votes, then all but the two candidates receiving the most votes are eliminated, and a second round of voting occurs. (adapted from Wikipedia)

[2The Observatoire de la parité entre les femmes et les hommes was set up in 1995. It provides the French prime minister, and by delegation the minister responsible for women’s rights, with an official evaluation of public policies aimed at favoring male-female equality in the social, economic and political domains.

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