Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Women in the Second Egyptian Parliament Post the Arab Spring: Do They Think They Stand a Chance?

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Women in the Second Egyptian Parliament Post the Arab Spring: Do They Think They Stand a Chance?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Egyptian women were very active on the streets during the 25 January Revolution, both in the demonstrations and in the subsequent elections, showing very high rates of participation as voters, yet surprisingly, very low rates of representation in the 2012 parliament. The current study seeks to explore different views, expectations and perceptions of Egyptian women regarding women's role in the forthcoming 2013 parliamentary elections, and to identify what alternative measures are needed to strengthen women's representation in parliament, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The methodology utilized relied on a literature review in addition to a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the results of a on-line and an off-line survey instrument implemented on a purposive proportional sample of 244 women of different political affiliations, educational levels, economic classes, age groups, and covering those working outside the home, and those who are not. Among the main findings of the study were that women do not automatically vote for other women, that the perception of women MPs performance by other women is mostly negative, whether before or after the Revolution and that women think women MPs are better capable of representing their needs. The names of other women MPs remembered had nothing to do with their political or parliamentary performance. The main perceived barriers to winning seats in parliament were the dominant societal culture, the lack of women qualifications, and the dominance of the Islamists rule. In general, the study concluded that Egyptian women lack confidence in their own abilities as parliamentarians and do not think they stand a good chance in the next 2013 elections.

Key words: Women, Parliament, Egypt, Elections

Introduction

Egyptians surprised the world and themselves by ousting a dictatorship regime that was thought to be immune to any resistance. Millions went to the streets demanding their rights to freedom, equity and bread. Egyptians were united in their demands with no social, economic, religious or gender differences. All were in hope for a better future. On February 11, 2011 as Mubarak stepped down many were enthusiastic that the quick path to democracy and development has commenced.

Today, two years later we need to evaluate the course of development in Egypt and of the demands of the uprising. Egyptians who were once united on their desire to topple Mubarak's regime now stand divided on several issues including government, human rights, security, and the list goes on. Our study will focus on the status of women as perceived by fellow women. Women were very active on the streets during the revolution, both in the demonstrations and in the subsequent elections, showing very high rates of participation as voters, yet surprisingly, very low rates of representation in the 2011 parliament.

Having women represented in parliament, where laws and policies are formulated, is of vital importance to make sure their voices get heard and their needs met (IDEA, 2005, qtd in Al Maaitah et al, 2011). However, several cultural, structural, and election specific factors hinder their representation in parliament (Carter Center, 2012). The end result was that only eight women won seats on the 2012 parliament, and two were appointed, thus bringing women representation to only 2% of the 508 seat parliament (Carter Center, 2012; IFES, 2011), compared to a 12% representation in parliament before the Revolution under the toppled regime (Fadel & Hassieb, 2012), compared to the Arab states average of 11%, and compared to a rising global average of women participation in parliament of 19% in 2011 (IDEA, 2011). However, this parliament did not last very long and was soon dissolved when the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the elections at large were unconstitutional in June 2012, six months after its start of operation.

Egypt is now approaching a second round of parliamentary elections post the revolution, expected in October 2013. …

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