Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Still Illusive Equality: A look at gender in the 2010 and 2011 Peruvian elections

By Anya Malkov, WAPPP summer intern
Originally posted August 18, 2012 

That is the name of the report I worked on this summer. Well, it's the translation of "Igualdad Esquiva Aún" which Google Translate provided. The more accurate name would be "The Still Illusive Equality: A look at gender in the 2010 and 2011 Peruvian elections," which a sequel to "Igualdad Esquiva"  published by IDEA and Transparencia after the 2006 elections.

In the process of writing a chapter for this report, I learned that despite a mandated quota that women comprise 30% of candidates on every party's list in every district, despite the fact that women actually comprised 40% of candidates overall, equality is indeed dodgy yet.

After the 2011 election, women made up 21.5% of Congress, which - mind you - is still more than in the US, but is significantly less than the 29% seen in the previous Congress. After the 2006 elections, activists were celebrating how close women were to hitting "critical mass" in Congress, and how they had been elected in more areas of the country, not just in the capital Lima...well, much of that waned in the latest election, leaving all of us scratching our heads, trying to figure out why.

We couldn't establish causation, but we did see some suggestive trends. My favorite finding was about incumbency and re-election. Favorite because I felt like an explorer, departing from the methodology of the previous report to investigate a hunch. Here is what I found out about incumbent male and female members of Congress running for re-election:

Blue - ran for re-election and lost, red - ran and won, green - didn't run.

Basically - majority of incumbent men run again, but majority of incumbent women do not. Caveat: I am only analyzing 2011, but a cursory look at other years shows similar trends.

It's also important to note that political parties have more control over who runs and who doesn't in Peru than in the US, so we would have to dig deeper to find out why the women aren't running for re-election. That would be a line of reasoning worth pursuing if we could establish that re-election is easier to win than a regular election. At first I though "Duh! Obviously it is!" but remembering that not all countries love their incumbents as much as we do in the US (incumbency rate squarely over 80%!).

So I whipped out my statistics training and crunched some numbers.

Turns out that in 2011, 44% of men who ran for re-election won, contrasted with 18% of men who ran from outside (most for the first time, some had served before). Ok, that's a nice incumbent advantage, but what about women?  47% of those who ran for re-election won, versus 6.6% of outsiders! That means incumbent women were more than 7 times more likely to be elected than non-incumbent women! Yes, it also means that non-incumbent men are almost three times more likely to be elected than non-incumbent women, but look, incumbent women are doing better than incumbent men...except that they don't run in nearly the same quantities...

Echoing my discovery, the author of another chapter showed that women running for both national and state-level office have less political experience than do the men. Not surprising, but taken together our findings point to a disturbing trend that despite the quotas the women aren't accumulating the political experience and the cache, because they leave politics faster. This raises the question WHY? which would, if answered, give us a hint to the question WHAT CAN BE DONE TO CHANGE IT?

And that also makes me think about the US and the female incumbents here...perhaps instead of watching "West Wing" I'll do a literature review today...Master's thesis anyone?

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