A nondescript apartment in Istanbul’s business district is the nerve centre of a drive to propel more women into Turkish politics.
But with some 60 million voters due to cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, the mood at the office of Ben Secerim, or I Choose, is one of disappointment.
The NGO was established two years ago to boost female participation in politics, specifically to hunt out suitable candidates to stand for parliament and recommend them as viable vote winners to political parties.
Earlier this month, Ben Secerim unveiled 20 women who will stand for four parties in the May 14 legislative election. However, due to the nature of the election process – votes for parties are allocated to candidates according to their placement on ranked party lists – just four stand any real hope of entering the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
It’s very disappointing for us,” said Nilden Bayazit, president of Ben Secerim. “There’s a wall for women candidates even in more liberal parties. It shows there are still many blocks on women and they don’t want to change that.”
The wider picture is similarly discouraging for those seeking greater female representation in a country where women make up 50.7 percent of the electorate and where national women’s suffrage was introduced in 1934.
Of their 600 parliamentary candidates, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has nominated 113 women while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has selected 156 – ratios of 18.8 and 26 percent, respectively. The Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) is fielding the highest proportion of female candidates at 40.5 percent.