Turkey’s main opposition CHP elects solely three women as provincial chairs across 81 posts

While Turkey's main opposition party CHP had 33 women quota for all levels according to its bylaws, only three out of 81 provincial organizations elected women as provincial chairs ahead of the party's congress

CHP's Erzincan provincial chair Zeynep Erdoğan Sarıca (L), Uşak provincial chair Sevinç Soyer Yazgan (CHP), and Kütahya provincial chair Zeliha Aksaz Şahbaz (R).

Didem Mercan / Gazete Duvar

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which is mandated by its bylaws to implement a 33 percent gender quota in provincial and district administrations as well as Party Assembly elections, only managed to elect three women provincial chair out of the 81 provinces during the recent provincial administration elections.

The CHP will hold a congress on Nov. 4-5 with two presidential candidates. In the process leading up to the congress, provincial organizations elected both delegates who votes for the new party leader and new branch administrations.

Party officials have been deliberating the possibility of increasing the women's quota from 33 percent to the 50 percent. 

In a recent meeting with the party's current chairman and congress candidate, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, woman party members advocated for equal rights and authority alongside their male counterparts. Kılıçdaroğlu has committed to fulfilling the women's request for a 50 percent gender quota. 

However, the elections for the current party cadre showed that the goals were far from being realized. With election of Zeynep Erdoğan Sarıca in eastern Anatolian Erzincan province, Zeliha Aksaz Şahbaz in western Kütahya province and Sevinç Soyer Yazgan in western Uşak province, the party's representation rate in top provincial administrations remained at four percent.

Evaluating the situation, Şahbaz said, "Women in politics are only positioned as labor force visiting people’s houses. Women within the movement are unfortunately scratched and blocked by undemocratic processes when they aim for high positions they deserve.”

Şahbaz also criticized the "women's branches" prevalent in parties in Turkey, including the CHP, and said, "Positioning women in women's branches as a side structure is not appropriate for a party that defines itself as leftist and social democratic. The essence of women's branches contains expressions that reject the equality of women and men and position women as a secondary gender, as in political Islamist parties."

Erzincan provincial chair Sarıca also stated that the fact that there are only three women provincial presidents is a result of the male-dominated mentality that prevails within the CHP.

Uşak Provincial Chair Yazgan underscored that the 33 percent women's quota in the current bylaw was fulfilled by placing women in the unelectable positions in the candidate lists.

Within the Parliament, the CHP currently holds 130 seats, with women constituting only 24, or 18 percent, of these deputies. Out of the total 600 deputies in the Parliament, 119, or 20 percent, are women.