05.02.2008 Politics

Political parties divided over 30% parliamentary seat allocation to women

By Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY
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Representatives of political parties, except the DFP and GCPP, are divided over a proposed 30% allocation of parliamentary seats to women in their various parties.

The proposition was made by the Director of the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA) Professor Kofi Kumado, who said an intended 10% monetary incentive will be given to parties who will agree to the 30% set aside.

At a round table organised by the Institute for Economic Affairs to discuss proposals for the political parties' bill and funding, Professor Kumado said the call for gender balance would be greatly enhanced if all the parties put forward their women supporters to contest parliamentary seats in their strong holds.

He said it should be possible, for example, for the NDC to field as many women as possible in the Volta Region which is considered its strong. He said a similar thing could be done by the NPP in the Ashanti Region where they could easily pass through. He however said competence and readiness to serve the various constituencies should be part of the factors for the selection of women to contest parliamentary seats.

Professor Kumado said the 10% incentive which would serve as a monetary incentive for any of the parties who would take up the proposition is completely different from funds set aside for parties to run their activities. He said it will only be an added incentive.

But most of the representatives of the parties were sharply divided over the issue. PNC General Secretary Bernard Monarh said inasmuch as the call for gender balance is in the right direction, it will be important for stakeholders in the game to consider a Kenyan form of women representation.

He said in Kenya apart from women who put themselves up to be elected into parliament the rest are appointed to occupy certain seats allocated purely to them. He believes there are competent women in this country whose immense experience would go a long way to helping the image of the country's parliament, and such an exercise would be given a consideration.

Dr. Benjamin Kumbour who is the NDC's spokesperson for finance cautioned that care should be taken to ensure that the proposed allocation does not create a situation whereby the number of women will overshadow that of the men.

NDC Vice Chairman Enoch Teye Mensah who says the idea of gender balance is an important asset to the democratization process of the country however warned that it is important to consider the legal ramifications that such a proposition could bring. He said there is also a tendency for some aggrieved party members to seek legal redress over the issue.

NPP Chairman Peter Mac Manu however disagreed with the idea propounded by his colleagues. He wondered how the allocation of seats to women in the party's strongholds would trigger any legal challenge. He urged his colleagues in the other parties to give a serious consideration to the matter.

On the substantive issue of public funding for the parties they all welcomed the idea but called for a mechanism to be put in place to ensure that funds disbursed to the parties are used judiciously.

Former Speaker of Parliament Peter Ala Adjetey who spoke on the substantive issue of party funding said basic features in the new bill on the existence of political parties have been maintained.

“It is hoped that this would facilitate the use of the new measure when it becomes law by those familiar with the existing legislation.”

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