Quotas in elections

Image: Marcio Costa


In at least 5 municipalities, the gender quota guaranteed male candidates

We are less than 20 days away from the elections. Since the 27th of September, the Electoral Justice has been dealing with the analysis of the Demonstrations of Regularity of Party Acts (DRAP) which assesses, in general, whether the associations have paid attention to the necessary formalities to launch their affiliates as candidates.

In short, what the Electoral Justice has been doing is analyzing all the candidacy records and seeing if they are regular to compete, or if there is any impediment. Among the requirements to be observed are the existence of a Directory or Provisional Commission in force in the Municipality, the writing of the minutes of the convention and also the observance of the gender quota. Until now, 16 applications have already been rejected.

quotas in politics

The proposal for a quota system was part of the Elections Law since its first version, in 1997, and provided that “of the number of vacancies resulting from the rules set forth in this article, each party or coalition must Reserve a minimum of thirty percent and a maximum of seventy percent for candidates of each gender”.

As only the reservation was foreseen, and not the filling of vacancies, the legal determination ended up not being completely effective. With this wording, the only inconvenience the party would be subject to by not filling out the minimum percentage of 30% of candidacies for gender was merely not being able to fill them with men.

The current legislation, in force since 2009, in turn, requires that each party or coalition fill in the minimum of 30% (thirty percent) and the maximum of 70% (seventy percent) for candidates of each gender, under penalty of having the registration of the entire slate rejected.

It is a necessary exercise to remember that the quota is based on gender and not on women: for every 10 candidates, at least 3 must be women, but a maximum of 7 can be women.

Despite this, I confess: since I started my career as an electoralist, my preventive advocacy work in registrations begins by counting women on the list of pre-candidates to, not infrequently, find percentages lower than those required by the norm.

So, this year, when accompanying a client who is a candidate for mayoralty in a municipality in Goiás, I noticed that the percentage of alleged female candidates exceeded 70%. When I went to the team and informed them that they did not meet the quota, the coordinators reacted with surprise, after all, the future list included many women.

As of the convention date, we weren't sure if we could achieve the 30%/70% ratio for each gender. Finally, we found men interested in running and ended up registering five female and three male candidates, so that the “quota” ended up being allocated to the candidates, not the female candidates.

Sharing this case, from São Luís de Montes Belos (GO), with some colleagues, I was able to discover that it was not the only one: it was repeated in Estrela do Norte (GO), Alto Horizonte (GO), Itaperuna (RJ) and Canoas (LOL).

It seems like a lot of cases, but look: of the 5.570 Brazilian municipalities, there is news of five. We are still a long way from a scenario in which mostly female or parity candidates are a common reality.

In order to contextualize the discussion, it should be mentioned that Brazil ranks 134th in the percentage of women in National Parliaments, among the 190 countries analyzed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, behind countries like Libya, Jordan and Turkey. Women occupy only 15% of parliamentary seats in Brazil, even though they represent more than 50% of the population.

On the one hand, the debate about the need for greater effectiveness of policies to encourage female participation in politics has taken center stage in academic and party discussions, especially after the exposure of the large number of fictitious female candidacies in the 2016 elections, which culminated in in the cassation of entire proportional plates. On the other hand, there are those who defend the flexibility of the quota policy.

As an example, there is Bill (PL) nº 4130/19, which proposed that, if the gender quota currently provided for in the Elections Law was not filled, the vacancy would remain empty. The PL seemed to propose a return to status what, prior to 2009, in times of low effectiveness of the quota, and was withdrawn on 25/09/2019.

Indeed, attempts to make the gender quota more flexible are not rare, perhaps because the parties do not have the competence or the will to fulfill the minimum of 30% of vacancies for female candidates. The withdrawal of the Project demonstrates progress in these discussions, but there is still a lot to evolve towards an equal composition of slates.

It is interesting to note that the biggest criticisms directed at the withdrawn project identified it as a setback in the rights won by women, even when the quota is gender. In fact, until last year, there was no news of the quota as a mechanism to guarantee the participation of male candidates, as in the cases of São Luís de Montes Belos (GO), Estrela do Norte (GO), Alto Horizonte (GO) , Itaperuna (RJ) and Canoas (RS).

The question that remains is the following: if the cases of “quota inversion” observed in the 2020 elections become more common, would the system still see the need to guarantee candidacies of both sexes on the slates as a difficulty? Or if quotas were to protect male candidates would quotas no longer be seen as a problem?

* Marina Morais is a lawyer and is studying for a Master's degree in Political Science at the Federal University of Goiás.

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