Under Moldovan law, men and women have equal rights as voters and candidates; however, women’s representation in politics remains incredibly low. Women account for only 21 of the seats in the current parliament and, according to UN Women statistics, are also underrepresented at the local level—holding around 20 percent of mayoral positions, 19 percent of the seats in district and municipal councils, and 30 percent in local councils.
In an effort to address this gap in representation, the Parliament instituted a new and progressive measure as part of Moldova’s new mixed electoral system. Under the measure, every candidate list for the upcoming parliamentary election is required to maintain a gender balance of at least 40 percent for both sexes. Each of the registered 14 parties and blocs have met this requirement, with women representing 42 percent of total party and bloc national candidate lists.
High-profile women female politicians headline the lists of four parties/blocs (ACUM, PSRM, Our Party and PNL) and rank among the top three candidates for nine entities. However, the gender distribution throughout the lists is disproportional. The majority of female candidates are positioned low enough on their party/bloc’s list that they are unlikely to be elected.
While each of the registered electoral competitors complied with the gender balance within their national candidate list, IRI notes that none have met the “minimum representation share of 40 percent for women candidates nominated within single member constituencies,” (Article 46, Moldovan Electoral Code) which would qualify them for an additional 10 percent in state budget support following the election. Women candidates represent only 21 percent of the total number of candidates registered across the 51 single member constituencies—indicating that the financial incentive-based system will not bring any significant increase of women in the next Parliament.
While women are underrepresented in the regions as candidates, there is strong women participation within election administration bodies., women represent 55 percent of the total members and nearly 57 percent of the leadership (i.e. chairperson, deputy chairperson and council secretary) across the 51 district electoral commissions which administer the election throughout the country. The precinct-level electoral commissions (the bodies that will manage the individual polling stations) have recently been recruited and more analysis will be forthcoming; however, IRI’s early observations of the process indicate that women will be strongly represented within these bodies.
In addition to tracking women’s participation as candidates and election officials, IRI has also observed substantial campaign contributions by female political activists. Women are serving directly as critical campaign staffers, volunteers, door-to-door agitators and poll watchers. IRI will continue to track this participation as Election Day nears.
While women’s equal participation has yet to be realized at the highest levels in Moldovan politics, IRI is encouraged to see these signs of progress. The significant inclusion of women in local governance is a strong foundation for future female leadership in more national roles.