Gender Quotas and Representation
An ordinance was issued in 2006 to promote better representation of women in elected offices. Ordinance 2006-029 of August 22, 2006, introduced a voluntary principle for a gender quota to increased women’s representation on municipal and legislative bodies. In order to render the measure effective, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Women’s Affairs issued a joint decree (Decree 2165/MIPT/SECF of August 13, 2006) mandating that the representation of women on lists of candidates to be submitted by political parties for legislative and local elections. This ministerial decree dictates how male and female candidates are listed, reserving to women a number of elective positions. Lists of candidates that do not comply with the provisions of the decree are rejected. The decree also provided financial incentives to political parties that managed to have the largest number of elected women in the assemblies established after the 2006 and 2007 elections. These new provisions were a major breakthrough in the Mauritanian context where, despite their active involvement in socio-economic activities, women are widely underrepresented in politics. In the beginning, several political parties showed reluctance for the strict enforcement of such a quota system. Nevertheless, they allowed women to occupy 30% of the seats in municipal councils and 19% of the seats at the National Assembly.
The quota mandating that 20% of seats be reserved to women on lists of candidates in legislative and local elections is a major step forward in the Mauritanian context, where women’s participation in political activities has been generally weak. Women managed to win the quota of 20% of seats reserved to them in the first round of the election. Out of the 43 seats at the National Assembly won in the first round of the election, 9 (or 21%) were won by women candidates. Regarding municipal elections, women won 30.3% of seats in municipal councils, which surpassed expectations. After the runoff, women won an additional 19% of seats in the National Assembly. However, there was no woman candidate for the presidential election.
The new Law 2012-034 of April 11, 2012, promoting women’s access to elective terms and elective positions has amended some provisions of the above-mentioned 2006 ordinance, but it maintained some constraints. For example, the law states that the lists of candidates in municipal elections that do not put female candidates in eligible positions, based on the anticipated number of counselors, shall be rejected. Therefore the lists of candidates must have at least:
- 2 female candidates for the councils of 9 and 11 members
- 3 female candidates for the councils of 15 and 17 members
- 4 female candidates for the councils of 19 and 21 members
(There is no change brought by the 2012 Law regarding these provisions).
The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) has the mandate to determine the procedures for the lists of candidates to be in compliance with the new law.
As for legislative elections, a number of seats are allotted to women on the lists of candidates. For example, for an election of members to the National Assembly in a constituency where three seats are in competition, each competing list must include a female candidate occupying the first or second position on the list. In the constituencies with more than three seats in competition, with the exception of the national list reserved to women, each list will alternate between male and female candidates (this provision does not take into account the provisions of the old law which mandated that, in constituencies that have two seats to fill, each list must have a candidate of a different gender, Article 4 of Ordinance 2006-029). It is a decision of the CENI that determines the procedures to be used when making the lists of candidates. Regarding the election of Senators, it is required that political parties have a female candidate in a least 4 constituencies.
The main innovation for the promotion of the access of women to elected office and elected positions comes from the Law 2012-029 of April 12, 2012, which amends Ordinance 91-028 of October 7, 1991, regarding the election of members to the National Assembly. It mandated a national list of 20 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly.
It should be noted that the provisions of the new Law 2012-034 of April 11, 2012, regarding the promotion of access for women to elected terms and elected positions, has not been enforced as of September 2013.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Ordonnance n° 2006-029 du 22 Août 2006 portant loi organique relative à la promotion de l’accès des femmes aux mandats électoraux et aux fonctions électives.
- Arrêté conjoint n° 2165 MIPTSECF du 31 août 2006 définissent les mécanismes appropriés pour l’établissement des listes candidates aux élections municipales et législatives en tenant compte du quota réservé aux femmes.
- Loi organique n°2012-034du 12 avril 2012 modifiant certaines dispositions de l’ordonnance n°2006-029 du 22 aout 2006 portant loi organique relative à la promotion de l’accès des femmes aux mandats électoraux et aux fonctions électives.