Fair share of tickets a far cry for women

Kathmandu, October 23

Political parties champion the cause of women empowerment in their poll manifestos but their pledge does not match their actions. This was reflected yesterday when the three major parties — the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre — fielded only nine women candidates for 111 first-past-the-post provincial and parliamentary seats that will go to polls on November 26. The FPTP seats include 37 parliamentary and 74 provincial constituencies.

Two women are in the fray from the NC and one from the CPN-MC in the parliamentary FPTP elections.

Only six women — one from the NC and five from the left alliance between the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC — are contesting for provincial FPTP elections. According to the Election Commission, out of 803 candidates in the fray for the first round of provincial and parliamentary FPTP elections, only 41 are women.

UML Vice Chairman Astha Laxmi Shakya said few women contested FPTP polls mainly due to expensive poll campaign.

The EC has fixed the ceiling of Rs 2.5 million for candidates contesting for the House of Representatives and Rs 1.5 million for candidates vying for provincial assembly seats. “But everyone knows  they will not win if they stick to the EC’s ceiling,” Shakya said, adding that she and other women leaders had encouraged other women to contest FPTP elections but no one mustered courage to contest the elections.

According to Shakya, the number of male leaders is high in every party and local committees of the parties recommended very few women for the FPTP elections.

NC leader Kamala Panta said women leaders did not get tickets for FPTP elections not because they were incompetent but because men did not want to share tickets proportionally with women.

“I told my leaders that I will quit politics if I did not win, yet they did not give me a ticket,” she said. She added that the PR system would make women slaves of the party and faction leaders.

According to Panta, women were not getting their share in the distribution of tickets also because the party bodies responsible for recommending the names of candidates were dominated by men.

CPN-MC Spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said her party’s women wing had registered formal complaint against the party’s decision to field only a few women candidates in the FPTP elections.

She said the party had not given tickets to women even in those constituencies where the party was certain to win. “Victory of CPN-MC candidates in Rolpa and Rukum is almost sure, but our party did not give tickets to women candidates even there,” said Bhusal. “We have to struggle to ensure that such a mandatory provision is incorporated in the constitution,” Bhusal added.

She said if women’s representation was ensured only through the PR electoral system they would not develop leadership qualities.

EC Information Officer Surya Prasad Aryal said the parties had to ensure 33 per cent women’s representation in the Parliament but they had no obligation to field 33 per cent women candidates in FPTP elections.