The ratification of a new electoral law – while a step forward in many ways – caused a fair bit of concern last year as the quota for women in provincial councils was decreased from 25% to 20% (see here). In addition to this, the formal powers allocated to PCs have recently been limited to oversight and monitoring. Nevertheless, the PC elections were fiercely contested again – with 2591 candidates competing for 458 seats. Compare this with 3025 candidates competing for 420 seats in 2005, and it’s significantly less people campaigning – but the proportion of women candidates increased from 8% in 2005 to 12% in 2014.
So how did the women do? And did the change to the quota affect their performance? Well, yes and no. In 2009, women won 117 of the 425 seats available (28%). 20 of these were ‘non-quota women’ – with vote-counts exceeding those of their male counterparts. In 2014, women won 97 of the 458 seats available (21%). 18 of these were non-quota women. So, it seems that women did worse this year in terms of the total proportion of seats won, and in terms of the extent to which they exceeded the quota numbers.
This isn’t the whole story, however, and there are some striking details that should be looked at. First, in Kabul province, where 33 seats are now available – 7 women won seats and the three highest vote-getters (along with the fifth-highest) across the province were women. What’s more, not one of the successful female PC candidates in Kabul was an incumbent – these women are all new to the PC scene, with several of their predecessors likely looking to the parliamentary polls next year (and hence not campaigning again for the Council).
Across the board, the trend seems to be for women winners to be winning with much, much higher vote counts than they (or other women) received in 2009. In 27 out of 34 provinces, women got higher votes on average than in the last elections. Take Logar, for example. While in 2009 3 women were elected, and only 2 have now won seats in 2014, Huma Ahmadi got 788 votes in 2009 and has re-won her seat this year with 3616. Likewise, her colleague Nafisa Hejran won in 2009 with a mere 583 votes has secured a seat with 1167 this year.
What does this mean? There’s more to be said (see second instalment, watch this space) but it seems that – at least accordingly to preliminary votes, incumbent women have earned a good deal of support in their roles as councillors, and newcomers are still fiercely contesting seats, and gaining greater proportions of the public vote, in spite of reduced quotas and limited mandates.