Senegal voted this Sunday in this year’s Parliamentary elections, marked by a slow turn out.[i] "It's a waste to organise these elections when so few people show up," said Ousmane Sy, a Senegalese teacher. But, he added, "It isn't surprising. There are no illusions about the lawmakers. They don't play their role and politicians generally only spread lies."[ii
“Voters in Senegal went to the polls to elect 150 parliamentarians, 90 through direct suffrage while 60 will be chosen from national party lists. About 5 million of the West African nation's 13 million population were eligible to vote.”[iii]
President Mackey Sall ousted President Wade in Senegal’s presidential elections earlier this year. Sall is hoping for a majority of his party in parliament so he may carry out his policies. He is poised to win a majority of seats.
2010 Gender Quota Law, In Practice
There were 7000 candidates in the running, half of whom should be women. A new law enacted in 2010 follows the Gender Quota List system, requiring gender parity on all political party lists. Sunday’s election was expected to put more women in Senegal’s parliament than previous years. This law has been welcomed and praised by women’s groups, while some groups in this Muslim-majority nation site the law as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unfair’.
Gender parity, according to Fatou Sow Sarr, director of a gender institute at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar "will bring our country in line with more modern nations and democratic governance.”[iv] Democracy is not a true democracy unless both women and men have an equal role to play.
Of the outgoing lawmakers in this election, only 34 were women, holding 23% of the seats.[v] While the international community has praised Senegal for this gender parity law, some conservative groups in Senegal have fiercely argued against it: "Women are being chosen because they are women and not by merit. All the parties have had trouble drawing up their lists. There are not a lot of educated women on the ground,” said religious leader and lawmaker Mbaye Niang.[vi]
Laurence Gavron, a Jewish female politician originating from France but who became a naturalized Senegalese person several years ago ran for a seat in Parliament, said this of the quota law: "This is something very good, particularly in Senegal, where much injustice is done to women" and "it's important to start there, in politics."[vii] She admits that without the law, she is not sure she would have made it on her party’s list.
MEWC is encouraged by the gender quota law, but we are anxious to see the final results and hoping the number of women politicians elected is greatly increased.
Provisional results issued by the National Commission of Votes on July 10th reveal that women candidate hold 64 of the seats making up 42.66% of deputies elected in parliamentary elections. The increase in the number of women in the National Assembly is the result of a number of factors: the law establishing the gender voted in May 2010, and the constant lobbying and active political participation of women and women's organisations in the parliamentary elections[i].
[i] APS News: http://sunu2012.net/index.php/home/lelection-legislative/item/157-la-représentativité-des-femmes-passe-à-4466-dans-la-nouvelle-législature.html