Minivan News, 13 May 2009
The number of women MPs in parliament remains virtually unchanged after the Maldives’ first multi-party elections raised the overall level of representation from four to six per cent.
Provisional results from the Elections Commission show 21 women candidates won five out of a possible 77 seats.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Azima Shakoor, the country’s first female attorney general, said she was disappointed in the president who earlier this year announced he would campaign for ten women candidates regardless of their political party.
Instead, said Azima, he only campaigned for candidates from his own party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and failed to deliver on his promise.
“I am sure there weren’t ten women candidates from MDP,” she said. “So which candidates did he campaign for?”
On 9 March, a day after International Women’s Day, President Mohamed Nasheed pledged to endorse ten women without taking their political affiliations into consideration.
Azima added the president alleged members of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which had the highest number of women candidates – were corrupt, in one of his campaign rallies.
Nasheed’s allegations, she said, had a negative impact on the campaign efforts of DRP women candidates. “It’s very disappointing,” she said. “I am very unhappy.”
In November 2007, Azima submitted an amendment to the constitution to create ten additional seats in parliament for women.
The amendment was rejected by Constitutional Assembly Speaker Gasim Ibrahim, which led to a silent protest by female MPs who refused to take their seats, with some walking out.
Azima said there would be 15 women MPs today, if her amendment had been accepted.
“This is the how other countries encourage women to enter politics, by creating an opportunity for them through law,” she said.
In an interview with Minivan News last month, former MP Aneesa Ahmed, spoke of the difficulties which she faced when she first entered politics, with one male MP informing her that parliament was no place for a woman.
On the number of women candidates running, Aneesa said, “It’s not a good number when there are so many hundreds of people campaigning.”
She added women had a number of restrictions placed on them, both financial and cultural. Even if a woman had full support from her husband and family, she would still face public discrimination.
“We still have the majority of the people with the mindset that women can’t perform in public in the same way as men and women don’t have the intelligence or the capacity to be members of parliament or public figures,” said Aneesa.
Out of the 21 women who contested in the elections, eight were independent candidates, six were from DRP, four were from MDP, two were from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party and one was from the National Alliance.
The five women candidates who won seats in the parliamentary elections are: Visaam Ali and Rozaina Adam from DRP, and Ruqiyaa Mohamed, Eva Abdulla and Mariya Ahmed Didi from MDP.
Eva, who won in Male’ atoll Galolhu North, said the numbers of seats secured by women was unsatisfactory. She added one of her first priorities as an MP would be to champion women’s rights.
The 31-year-old said political parties should take more responsibility to encourage women to enter the political sphere and revise their internal structures to promote female leadership.
“I really hoped more women would have contested,” said Eva.