By Anush Dashtents
Of more than 650 candidates elected on October 20 to run local government bodies across Armenia only eight were women, officials said on Monday. They all won the top executive posts in villages.
More than 50 other female contenders won seats in rural and municipal legislative councils, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC). The total number of women contesting the polls exceeded 270, commission officials told RFE/RL.
CEC chairman Artak Sahradian said female participation was more active than during the previous elections held in October 1999, a claim disputed by some women’s groups.
Nora Hakobian of the Republican Council of Women, the biggest such organization, countered that far more women were elected in 1999. “Armenian women feel that time is not ripe for their participation in elections,” Hakobian said. “The elections are a very rough thing and require a lot of money and influence, none of which they possess.”
She also complained that Armenia’s male-dominated society sets stricter moral standards for female candidates. “A woman running in an election goes through a microscopic scrutiny during the campaign. If people detect a slight black spot, they always make much of it,” she said.
Another activist, Narine Hovannisian of the Armenian League of Female Voters, said women are now seeking greater political participation but are finding it hard to break the existing social barriers. “We have more and more politically active women. It’s just that the overall atmosphere is not changing,” she said.
Only three out of 131 members of the current Armenian parliament, elected in May 1999, are women. Two women’s organizations also contested the 1999 elections but failed to clear the 5 percent vote threshold for proportional representation in the parliament.