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No Space for Women at the Top? The Reproduction of Male Dominance in Europe’s New Democracies

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Gender
Political Parties
Representation
Women
Cristina Chiva
University of Salford
Cristina Chiva
University of Salford

Abstract

Post-communist countries are often described, with some justification, as Europe’s last bastions of male dominance. Explaining why this is the case has remained a central puzzle for the scholarship on the region even since the collapse of communism. This paper therefore undertakes an comparative analysis of the mechanisms that have sustained the descriptive over-representation of men in politics over the post-communist period, focusing on the role of political parties and party systems. The paper begins by drawing on feminist conceptualisations of candidate selection (Norris and Lovenduski 1995, Norris 1997, Krook 2010a, Krook 2010b, Kenny 2011), as well as on the rich scholarship on women’s representation in politics in Central and Eastern Europe (Saxonberg 2000, Moser 2001, Matland and Montgomery 2003, Wolchik and Rueschemeyer 2009). Overall, I argue, the mechanisms responsible for sustaining male over-representation in post-communist politics over the post-communist period are located primarily on the demand side (specifically, at the stage where political parties make choices about candidates), rather than on the supply side. Having thus made a prima facie case that the answer to the puzzle that we seek to explain lies with the choices made by political parties in post-communist Europe, the paper then proceeds to identify two mutually reinforcing mechanisms of reproduction of male over-representation in the politics of the region: first, men’s ‘incumbency advantage’ (which enables political parties to prioritise experienced male candidates over relatively inexperienced female candidates), and secondly, the logic of national electoral systems (which channel political parties’ preferences for male candidates into electoral outcomes that are favourable to men). The country case studies are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia during the period between 1990 and 2016.