''We need to completely change the system of government'': Interview with Nadia Ait Zai

''We need to completely change the system of government'': Interview with Nadia Ait Zai (Photo: Qantara.de)

Ms Ait Zai, for years now you and the women's organization you founded, CIDDEF, have been calling for the participation of more women in Algerian politics. What is your view of the result of the recent parliamentary elections as far as gender-related aspects are concerned?

Nadia Ait Zai: As far as gender-related aspects are concerned, the election result of 10 May 2012 is a considerable leap forward. A total of 145 women were elected to parliament out of a total of 462 delegates. That's almost a third of all the seats. In the last election in 2007, out of a total of 389 delegates only 31 women made it into parliament.

How do you explain this increase?

Ait Zai: The women's organizations fought for a statutory quota for women. The Algerian constitution calls for men and women to be treated equally before the law. Furthermore, Algeria has ratified the anti-discrimination convention CEDAW. Among other things, this deals with improving the political representation of women. One measure for the implementation of this convention was the extension of Article 31 of the Algerian constitution in 2008. Based on this, a quota for women was established in a law that came into force in January 2012. This law stipulates that Algerian women must be represented politically at all levels – local, regional and national.

The original draft of the law stipulated that at least 30 percent of the people's elected representatives were to be women. This proposal was dropped. Instead, quotas were established for the lists of candidates: 20, 30, 40 or 50 percent of the candidates put forward by the parties on each list must be women, depending on the size of the electorate in each constituency. What is your opinion of this?

Ait Zai: The political parties have cut the legal quota for women into little slices. The draft law actually said that women must be placed on the list in such a way that they have a chance of being elected.

But now the law does not clearly state where on the electoral lists the female candidates must be positioned. Nonetheless, the quota is in itself an achievement. Until recently it was up to the parties to decide whether they chose to have female candidates on their lists. Now, for the first time, we have a law that makes it compulsory for women to participate.

And in the last election the parties showed that they really were prepared to admit more women, in that women weren't just placed right at the bottom of the list; some at least were also positioned so that they had a real chance of getting elected. This political will is very significant. It has the potential for creating new, different relationships between men and women.

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Interview: Martina Sabra; Translated by Charlotte Collins

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