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Increasing women representatives in Parliament

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With the draft of the 20th amendment to be submitted in Parliament soon, it was revealed that Sri Lanka was ranked the lowest in South Asia with less than 6 percent of women representatives in Parliament.

Seeing that there is an opportunity for some high level changes to increase the number of women representatives in political parties a system known as the combined method was proposed, Dr. Ashoka Abeygunawardena one of the drafters of 20th amendment said at a media briefing that was held recently. 

He said that the president submitted a cabinet paper earlier this month which clearly stated that we need to have a special provision for female participation in Parliament. 

“There are three lists in which candidates can be elected; the national list, district list and electoral list. Under the proposed system each political party submitting candidates to the national and district list are required to submit at least one third women representatives. Even after elections from those who are selected, one third should be women. For instance if there are 9 candidates selected there should be three women, but if there are only two selected there should be at least one woman,” he said.

He said that problems arise in the electoral list as all parties have electoral organizers. However it has been proposed that at the polling division level all parties contesting in more than 7 districts should have at least 10 percent women representatives between 3 and 7 districts should have 5 percent women representatives and less than 3 districts need not have any representatives, he said.

Explaining the system Abeygunawardena said that in the new system the proportionate voting system will remain as it has been positively recognized but the preferential voting system will be removed and replaced with the electoral voting system.

 “With the existing preferential system those who have money and power can come into power but those who are genuine and knowledgeable will find it difficult to be elected even as a candidate. Hence we are getting rid of the preferential voting system and replacing it with the electoral system,” he said.
Under the proposed system instead of picking the candidates who have got the highest number of preferential votes the candidates who have won the electorate will go to the parliament from the quota allowed by the proportionate basis. This will ensure that all parties get the same quota in the Parliament, he explained. 

Programme Researcher at the Women and Media Collective Kumudini Samuel said that plans are being made to make amendments to the Election Act before the next election

Under the new act proposals have been made to include 30 percent appointments to be given to women in the national list, electing one man and one woman if there are two appointments in the district list, a mandatory provision of 30 percent for women in the nominations list and the necessity for all decision making parties to have a third of women representatives to be registered.    
    
She further said that this is the first time the representation of women have been included in the draft and women organizations applaud the initiative that has been taken. She urged that all measures be taken to see that these proposals are implemented. 

Representatives from women’s organizations echoed her views adding that there should be more women representatives at the nominations stage than proposed and measures should be taken to ensure that the proposed changes bring about the desired result. They further highlighted the importance of internal party democracy and said that no party organizer should be allowed to nominate family members or relatives.

From the proposed system 30 to 40 women representatives are expected but it will depend on the voter response. 

Pics by Waruna Wanniarachchi 
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