Political parties in Bosnia push women to the side -- again

Women are holding the top position in only 16% of all parties' candidate lists for the October elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Political parties in Bosnia push women to the side -- again - NewsMavens
Bosnian parliament, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

With its complex administrative system, Bosnia and Herzegovina has an equally complex voting ballot. In the upcoming October elections, all of its citizens will vote for one of three members of the state Presidency and candidates for the state and entity parliaments. Additionally, in Republika Srpska, voters will also pick a president for that entity; and in the Federation of BiH, which is divided into ten cantons, they will also choose representatives in their cantonal parliament.

All of this gives more than enough opportunities for political parties to act on their proverbial commitment to empower women in politics -- the sheer volume of the document with all the registered candidates' lists is enough to illustrate that point. However, few have done so -- only 16% of all the candidate lists have a woman in the leading position.

BiH has a law which stipulates that each list has to have at least 40% candidates of the "less represented gender" (essentially a code for "women").

There also has to be a relatively equal distribution of candidates of both genders throughout the list. But the decision of who will "carry" the list -- and get a sure seat in the parliament if the list is succesfull -- is, of course, up to the parties themselves. And this is where they overwhelmingly decide to promote the male candidates.

Political parties in BiH usually comply with the gender "quota" of 40%, although some do opt for paying a symbolic fine instead.

But even when they do achieve this formal "balance", female candidates rarely get the same visibility and promotion during the campaign.

Most of the major BiH party leaders (all of whom are men) routinely repeat that their parties value their female members and voters. When the time comes to put those words into action, the result is 16%.  

The best and the worst, in numbers

  • In BiH, one political party can have up to 27 candidates' lists for the General elections. 
  • Looking into major parliamentary parties, in the Federation of BiH, two parties with the highest number of women in leading positions on candidates' lists are DF and HDZ, both with five lists lead by women.
  • In Republika Srpska, out of three parties in the ruling coalition, two (SNSD and SPRS) don't have a single candidates' list with a woman in the first place. Their third coalition partner, DNS, has only one.
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