Fewer Female Lawmakers Elected to Parliament

There may be markedly fewer female lawmakers to be found in the next National Assembly, an analysis of preliminary election results suggests.

If the next Assembly is seated according to the estimated seat count released by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), and candidates are selected in the order they appeared on party lists, there will be just 15 female lawmakers: eight from the CPP and seven from the CNRP.

That figure would amount to a 12.2 percent share of the total 123 parliamentary seats, and a decrease of 42 percent in female representatives at the National Assembly.

With so few female representatives, Cambodia would also fail to meet the Millennium Develop­ment Goal of 30 percent female lawmaker representation by 2015, which is well below regional and global averages.

The decline does not come as a complete surprise.

Fewer women ran in this year’s election—just 16 percent of titular candidates for the CPP and 10 percent for the CNRP, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Thida Khus, chair of the steering committee of the Committee to Promote Women in Politics, said Wednesday that she was concerned how a National Assembly with fewer women would operate. “Meetings are going to be a lot more confrontational if you don’t have women in the group,” she said.

“Decisions are going to be from a male perspective,” said Ms. Khus, adding that such a situation would negatively impact areas such as social and community development.

“It shows the under-representation of women [in Cambodian politics],” said Tioulong Saumura, the CNRP’s list-leading candidate in Phnom Penh and wife of opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Ms. Saumura attributed the lack of female candidates to both traditional gender roles and “the high level of intimidation in this country.”

However, observations of young women participating in the CNRP’s election campaign this year suggested a cultural shift was under way, she said.

“They were much more determined than their male counterparts…they did not correspond to the old prejudice of girls being shy,” she said.

“They’re very active compared to the women of my generation.”

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