Playing with different cards: Party politics, gender quotas and women’s empowerment

GT 3.8 Cambio organizativo y democracia interna en los partidos políticos españoles

Maria De La Fuente (universidad autónoma de barcelona)
Tania Verge Mestre (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
Sesión 1
Día: viernes,20 de septiembre de 2013
Hora: 09:00 a 11:30
Lugar: E11SEM02

Although statutory quotas have significantly expanded worldwide over the last two decades, the bulk of electoral gender quotas in place are party quotas. This paper aims at examining gender power dynamics in political parties after quota adoption. While scholarship research on women’s descriptive representation has tended to focus on the distributive logic of gender quotas (how are offices allocated), we are interested in the institutional (party) setting in which specific patterns of distribution are realized. Applying a feminist institutionalist perspective, we explore whether and how gender quotas have empowered women, as both party members and officeholders. We do so by paying attention to the conflicting patterns of formal and real power embedded in intra-party formal and informal institutions. The empirical analysis is based on primary sources for the Spanish case, particularly from Catalan political parties. Our findings show that, whereas formal power can be altered through gender quotas, subverting how real power operates is contingent upon deep institutional reforms that face a strong resistance. As change and continuity coexist, quota reforms are hardly critical junctures for women’s effective empowerment but rather layering processes in which some elements are renegotiated while others persist. This paper has relevant implications for intra-party democracy. While women’s representation in public office might be conceived of as “the most symbolic indicator of political equality” (Lovenduski and Norris 1993: 310), the latter deals with much more than patterns of candidate recruitment. Actually, the decision to run for office is linked to an individual’s previous decision, that to participate in a political party as well as to comfort with her participation – especially where party careers rank high in the selection of would-be candidates.

Palabras clave: political parties, gender quotas, power