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Representation of Women in Political Parties of South Africa and Rwanda: Analytical Essay

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In a society filled with dominant figures such as males and most often white males, it is hard for the minority groups such as women, other upcoming ethnic minority groups such to be represented in the politics of the country. Its different electoral systems that allow for these minority groups to either rise and have their values heard or be overpowered and silenced. The two types of electoral system will be discussed in the essay will by the proportional representation and the majority rule – first past the post. The successes and failures of each electoral system will be highlighted and the preferred electoral system will be argued based on the above analysis. The countries used will be South Africa and Rwanda for proportional representation whilst Kenya will be used represent the majority rule electoral system.

Electoral systems differ in each country due to the wars encountered and or because of the want to transition to a different and more inclusive or exclusive system. The differences in electoral systems is occur though how a vote is casted, the number of seats that are allocated and the electoral formula. The first electoral formula discussed will be about proportional representation that is implemented in South Africa and Rwanda. Proportional Representation is the allocation of seats based on the percentage that an individual or political party obtains in an electorate. The main purpose is to represent the different opinions of the voters and to ensure that citizens feel as though their vote counts and that individuals are represented in parliament. The reason in which why South Africa implemented this type of electoral system in 1994, was to make sure that everyone’s vote was heard, especially since some people were voting for the first time. South Africa prior the 1994 elections had excluded black people as well as women in the voting system during the apartheid regime. The threshold in South Africa in order to receive a seat in parliament is 0.25% in the national electorate. “Thresholds make for larger parties, which in turn is the operative variable in increasing women legislative representation” (Lindberg S, pg 34). The African National Congress is good example of a large party in which is now making active steps to include minority groups to represent a more diverse political party. The ANC has made a self-imposed gender quota that must be met. From the introduction of the proportional representation in 1994, the number of women in parliament has grown steadily. The quota is that 30% of women must make up the ANC. Majority of the women in parliament come from the ANC. 47% of ANC are currently filled by women. Due to the gender quota, ANC dominated whilst DA only has 28% women (People’s Assembly). This also applies pressure to other political parties to improve on the ratio of women to men. In the recent candidates, women in political leader positions can be seen in the DA, and EFF. Canidates include women such as Patricia Buyisile Baloyi, Bontle Veronica Moaji from DA and Busisiwe Gladys Mafareka, and Mpho Desieree Thari in the 2016 Municipal Elections. This high number of number of women in parliament has resulted in South Africa to be ranked 4th in the world of women representation. Although the focus on women is great, it can be said for other minority groups to get representation in parliament. The proportional representation allows for ethnic groups to also arise and be represented in parliament especially in a diverse society such as South Africa. South Africa has roughly 7 ethnic groups – black, white, Indian, colored, Asian and mixed races between the 6 ethnic group. In proportional representation, although small, the minorities of the countries are represented. PR “increases the likelihood that smaller parties are able to secure seats” (Ishimaya T, pg 167). Political parties such as the VF who are primarily concerned with protecting Afrikaans rights, freedom and protection have a low number seats in parliament. Another minority party is the Minority Front – which initially wanted to represent minority ethnic groups but now primarily is concentrated with Indian support. There is however a great concern that extremist groups may be able to obtain seats in parliament. Although no quota has been expressed to the amount of different races in the group required, it is evident that in such a diverse country in order to maintain power, one must branch out to groups outside the party. Another country in which uses proportional representation is Rwanda.

Rwanda is ranked number 1 in the world for the amount of women that are represented and elected into parliament. In the aftermath of the genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi people of Rwanda, active steps were made to make governance to be more inclusive of women by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. This political party was led by Paul Kagame in trying to put women in high level positions such as ministers, secretaries of state, Supreme Court justices, and parliamentarians. A gender quota has too been established in Rwanda which states that 30% for the inclusion of female representatives in all decision-making bodies. Rwanda has broken the record of women to be represented in parliamentary levels. Women are currently sitting at 64% representation in parliament (Eweniyi O). In both case studies although both have been dominating political parties show that larger political groups tend to make their values more inclusive of women although they differ in how women were brought into parliament differently. While this is a huge celebration for both South Africa and Rwanda, there still hasn’t been a female president. Another electoral system that has shown improvement in the representation of women is show in Kenya – through the first over the pass electoral system.

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Kenya currently has the first over pass system – which is done in which a political party or individual must win majority national electorate. The first over pass system may sometimes occur in more than one round if there is no clear winner in first round. After the first round if there’s no clear winner, then the candidate with lowest vote gets removed and re-voting occurs again. Women have been under-represented when it comes to political due to the country being stuck in the ideologies of what a women and men should be doing – men working whilst women stay home and look after the children. Because of these views women have are less educated than the men. “Customary and statutory laws continue to discriminate against women”. (Lindberg S, pg 30) There are however steps being made to increasing the amount of women being represented in decision-makings of the country. In 2010, an addition to the constitution was added in order to provide a framework to address the gender inequality in the country. The constitution made it that men could not have more two –thirds of the parliament.(Akech A) For the first time in Kenya’s history of voting, women were allowed to be elected and to serve as governors and senators. This raised the levels of women in parliament to now hold 172 of the 1,883 elected seats in Kenya, up from 145 after the 2013 elections. (News24). Despite the gains the first-past-the-post electoral system has made it hard for women to step into higher positions and breakthrough the patriarchal system. There have been considerable debates and delays regarding the issue of allowing women to have more than a third of seats. “Moreover, the First- Past –the- Post (Single Member District) electoral system have not only engendered an overly adversarial political contest, but also a violence prone electioneering, which favor men who can hire and retain violent gangs and run nocturnal campaigns.” (Akech A) Under the majoritarian rule, these traditional outlook of the “roles” of women in a society make it hard for new parties to enter into the electorate and challenge the ideologies of the winning party. “… Exclusion of minorities from power and a lower incentive for participation” (Lindberg S, pg 33) may be a result if Kenya continues to have the majoritarian electoral system. The delay in increasing the bracket in which the amount of women that can be represented shows the resistance of the patriarchy in the society to increase representation of women (Frykberg M). Although Kenya still has a first pass the post electoral system, the ideas of proportional representation are being introduced slowly. With these thoughts and ideas in mind. Kenya currently has the lowest female representation, and with the analysis of comparative politics, the correlation between the electoral system and women representation. The only issue with the winner takes all electoral system is that it makes individuals feel as though as though their votes are wasted. This can cause for a political parties to remain in power as people who belonging to the losing group feel as though they should waste their votes anymore and therefore the participation rate declines.

It is clearly evident that electoral systems have an impact on the different ideas of representation and who will enter into these competitive spheres. Through the proportional electoral system, it is seen to be easier to represent the people more effectively as the more of the minority achieving seats the more it will create awareness and encourage the participation. The difficulty of representation can be seen in the majoritarian rule based on the inequalities of the passed in certain countries (e.g.: lack of education offered to women) and the dominances of certain gendered groups. The views of the other 49% of the country are not represented which discourages lack of participation of minority groups and women in parliament. “Electoral systems also impact voter behavior…” (Ishimaya T, pg. 167). The majority of these electoral systems are dominant by the patriarchal system. With proportional representation, it makes it easier for women to get noticed and when women notice other women in electoral systems it encourages the participation of women. It also makes for the political party to target a broader spectrum allows for the winning political party to continue to win and make it more inclusive of the people within the society. First to pass system allows for the patriarchal system to continue to dominate and makes it harder for women to break through the barriers an obstacles in order to have their voices heard. “The voter turnout is generally more higher in countries that use PR systems when compared to countries that use FPTP” (Ishimaya T, pg. 167) It is believed that in order to make more inclusive parliamentary system that represents the people, different genders and ethnic races must be included. Proportional representation shows a better success rate at being more inclusive of women and minority ethnic group. This is evident in the seeing the rise of the EFF political party lead Julius Malema. The EFF has managed to obtain 25 seats in Parliament. Which currently higher than the other parties such as COPE who have been in the running for a longer time period.

South Africa and Rwanda are good examples of the proportional representation and the successes of women representation increasing over the past years. Majority – winner takes all electoral system in Kenya shows that the challenges for women to be represented in parliament is harder due to the inequalities of the past and the patriarchy system that strongly influences the decision of the people. The active steps made in proportional representation seem to show higher results than that of first past the post. Minority ethnic groups are underrepresented in first past the post and women have to work harder time getting recognized. Infiltrating dominating societies is better to do when quotas are established and met.

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Representation of Women in Political Parties of South Africa and Rwanda: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-political-parties-of-south-africa-and-rwanda-analytical-essay/
“Representation of Women in Political Parties of South Africa and Rwanda: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-political-parties-of-south-africa-and-rwanda-analytical-essay/
Representation of Women in Political Parties of South Africa and Rwanda: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-political-parties-of-south-africa-and-rwanda-analytical-essay/> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2022].
Representation of Women in Political Parties of South Africa and Rwanda: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-political-parties-of-south-africa-and-rwanda-analytical-essay/
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