The 2020 local elections will not change much in terms of women political participation in Romania. The differences from the last round of local elections, in June 2016, are minimal, although upstart parties have joined the competition recently.
There has been unexpected regress at the institutional level: the electoral authorities publish today less data than they did in 2016. For example, among the missing info now are the date of birth and the gender of candidates, which are important to determine whether a person meets the legal age threshold (23), or if political parties follow the good practices of gender balancing the electoral lists. Such data must be collected and published according to the international agreements Romania has signed.
In 2016, out of 267,242 local candidates (county/judeţ and local/municipality level, combined) only 57,149 (21.38%) were women. In 2020, as indicated, this official information is missing. We had to come up with an algorithm and comb the list of the 256,038 candidates registered for the county and local offices (all four of the elective offices open for competition on Sep 27th) in order to find out how many women are actually taking part. The method may give some errors, but we estimate that they are negligible. In all cases, it is the only way to make up for the lack of interest and transparency in this respect of the institutions managing the electoral process (electoral offices, the Permanent Electoral Authority). The database we built can be found, together with the text of this report, on the following webpage: www.expertforum.ro/women-local-elections
- The fraction of women in the total number of candidates has gone up compared with June 2016, but just slightly, by 1.5%: from 21.4% to 22.9% (see Fig. 1)
- The territorial variation of this percentage by county (judeţ), summing up all four types of functions open to elections on Sep 27th, is shown in Fig.1. The differences are significant. There is no correlation with the level of development or the historical region: counties (judeţe) from different parts of the country, with different levels of prosperity or degree of social modernization, can be found both at the top and the bottom of the hierarchy. In five counties the percentage of female candidates has declined since 2016, but the drop is very small.
- The highest gender imbalance is found in the competition for mayoral office, where less than 10% candidates are female (Fig. 2). The position of County Council President is not much different. In other words, directly elected offices, bringing legitimacy and real executive power, remain the ones least accessible to women.
- By local government tier and type of municipality, the highest proportion of female candidates is in cities (32.3% somehow to be expected), and the lowest in rural communes (Fig. 3). The highest percentage of women on the party lists for local council are in the Sectors 1, 2, 3 and 6 of Bucharest, and in the cities of Constanţa, Galați, Iași and Brașov.
- When running for local councils, almost 50% of women are on eligible positions (which we assess as place 8 on the list, or above). The situation is different when running for county councils, where only 21% are on eligible places. This verifies the observation no. 3 above: the higher the political weight of the office, the lower the chance that a woman may win it.
- The differences by political party (Fig. 4) shows that the largest parties, with the highest chances to win these elections, namely PNL and PSD, have the lowest percentages of women on the lists: below 20%. The new entrants in politics, USR and Plus, score similarly with the rest of competitors: around 25%. Among independent candidates, only slightly over 10% are women.
In brief, the situation has not changed significantly over the last four years in terms of party policy on gender balance. Women remain under-represented among the candidates in local elections, especially when it comes to positions with true executive power. There are situations, as in the case of the lists for County Councils, where the percentages seem in order overall, but in fact most women are not in eligible positions. The equality of chances in Romanian elections and politics in general remains “work in progress”, as it were.
Project supported by a grant from the Embassy of Canada in Romania