Tuesday, 9 June 2009

European elections: A snapshot of gender equality and democratic choice

The European Parliament has not yet published the 2009 gender distribution of the elected MEPs. After the 2004 European elections 31 per cent of MEPs were women.

The election result in Finland will shift the balance to a degree: eight women (about 61%) and five men were elected out of a total of 13 MEPs.

If there is anything remarkable about the result, it is the fact that it is based on the individual choices of voters. Each citizen votes for an individual candidate, on a party list. The lists function as teams, being awarded proportional representation according to their total number of votes. Within the list the order of the candidates is determined by their individual votes.

This means that the outcome is not based on quotas, or closed lists manipulated in a politically correct manner. They reflect the choices of the individual electors.

Besides, the electoral system allows the voter to assess all the qualities of a candidate, of which gender is but one.

In Finland, with a population of 5.3 million, the whole country was one electoral district, so each voter was able to select among all the available candidates (241 representing 13 parties).

Elections are democratic, but some systems are more democratic than others.

Ralf Grahn