Finance has the greatest impact on young and women politicians

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In a democracy, political participation of citizens, as well as the ratio of men, women, the elderly and youth in representative bodies are important.

Since the 1990 democratic revolution, Mongolia has held eight parliamentary elections and seven local elections. Citizens exercise their right to govern through elections. However, in Mongolia, the proportion of young people and women in each election since 1992 has been low.

In particular, a total of 606 candidates ran in the 2020 parliamentary election, and 13 women were elected to Parliament. Of the candidates, 455 or 75.08 percent were men and 151 or 24.92 percent were women.

In terms of age, in the newly formed Parliament, 1.3 percent are aged between 25 to 35, women aged between 36 and 45 make up 6.58 percent, and 10.53 percent of women are over 46 years old. Moreover, 7.8 percent of lawmakers are young people under the age of 40. One young member under the age of 35 was elected to Parliament in 2020. This shows that youth and women are underrepresented in decision-making.

In the last two parliaments, 17.1 percent of legislators were women, ranking 129th out of 187 countries, and the percentage of young people under the age of 35 is 1.3, which is too low compared to the international average.

Therefore, researchers studied the diversity of representation in politics, gender and age differences, as well as its factors. For instance, under the Promoting Elections and Political Participation Project, the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-sponsored “Challenges for Youth and Women in Politics” survey was conducted by researchers by the National Center for Integrated Development NGO to study the level of political participation of youth and women in Mongolia and the challenges they face.

The survey used one-on-one interviews and provided extensive quantitative analysis of demographic data on election laws, party rules, internal regulations, candidates for the 2016 and 2020 parliamentary elections, members of the government, and governors.

The qualitative survey covered a total of 76 politicians, including parliamentary candidates and members, representatives of local councils, and elected young and women lawmakers from six provinces and four districts of Ulaanbaatar. The researchers studied the issues facing young and female politicians in the context of institutional, personal and socio-cultural factors.

According to the survey, there are no specific provisions in the Constitution that support women’s candidacy. However, Article 16.11 of the Constitution states that men and women have equal rights in political, economic, socio-cultural life and family relations.

In the past, Mongolia acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1946, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women in 1954, and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981, creating a legal framework for protecting the social, economic and political rights of youth and women. Moreover, some progress has been made in ensuring gender equality in political decision-making within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals for 2000 to 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals for from 2016 to 2030.

The current law sets quotas for women to run in parliamentary and province, capital city, soum and district councils’ elections. In accordance with Article 30.2 of the Law on Parliamentary Elections of Mongolia, at least 20 percent of the total number of candidates nominated by a party or coalition must be women. Article 29.2 of the Law on Province, Capital City, Soum and District Councils’ Elections provides for the same regulation.

In other words, electoral laws provide for a 20 percent quota for women. In accordance with the Law on Gender Equality, all parties must have at least 25 percent female politicians in their central and local organizations. Parties are also required to submit gender reports every two years. However, according to the survey, the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality remains weak.

The number of women candidates has risen sharply since the introduction of a quota for women candidates in the Law on Parliamentary Election.

However, the percentage of women in political decision-making remains below the global and asian averages. This is because in 2020, at the parliamentary level, 20.5 percent are women in Asia, and of them, 15.5 percent are under the age of 40, while 2.2 percent are under the age of 30.

The internal rules of political parties have no regulations to support young and female politicians, the survey states. Therefore, in order to support youth and women’s representation, it is necessary to change the electoral system and increase the quota for women.

In 1992 and 1996, most parliamentarians were young people. In other words, 50 percent of lawmakers were 36 to 45 years old. In 1996, 27 percent of them were young people aged between 25 and 35. However, since the 2000 parliamentary elections, from 50 to 75 percent of parliamentarians have been over the age of 46, and the number of representatives aged between 25 and 35 has been declining.

There is also no legal framework to increase youth participation. On the contrary, there are legal provisions to reduce youth participation. For instance, Article 30.2 of the Constitution states that a citizen of Mongolia who has reached the age of 50 shall be elected as president only once for a term of six years. Moreover, in accordance with the Law on Civil Service, five full-time members of the Civil Service Council must be Mongolian citizens over 45 years of age.

In fact, in accordance with Article 16.9 of the Constitution, every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to elect and be elected to public office.

Moreover, out of a total of 19 candidates for the presidency, only one was a female candidate. Particularly, the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party’s candidate N.Udval competed in the 2013 presidential election. She received 6.58 percent support.

This shows that the right of young people and women to be elected has been steadily increasing in recent years, but the participation and representation of young people and women in political decision-making is still below the global and regional averages.

Particularly, women’s representation at the local decision-making level is very low. For example, only four out of five members of local councils are men. The representation of women in the councils of nine districts of Ulaanbaatar is two to three times different from the representation of women in the councils of 21 provinces.

The survey states that institutional challenges to youth and women’s candidacy are related to the electoral system. Moreover, the reluctance of political parties to nominate young and female politicians have been influenced by institutional factors such as the legal system and the maturity and finances of political parties, according to the survey.

Researchers noted that the success of politicians is influenced by personal factors such as finances, education, experience, family, circle of acquaintances, public reputation, skills and consistency.

According to the survey, one of the most influential personal factors is financial resources. This is because any political activity is costly and requires constant financial capacity. As financial demands play a major role in political activity, financial vulnerability limits a politician’s career, as well as their independence.

Of course, reducing political costs and improving the political education of the public are possible ways out of financial dependence.

Public reputation has the same important impact on election competition as financial resources. This is because most of the election expenses are spent on introducing a candidate to the voters. It is common for politicians to be known for their careers, political image, or past achievements.

Respondents also said that working more closely with the people, successfully solving citizens’ problems, and working well in positions have a positive impact on a politician’s career.

In the competition within a political party, education has not yet surpassed indicators such as money, power, and connections.
Moreover, for young and female politicians, marriage, family stability, and the reputation of family members are important factors in their political careers. In particular, for local voters, regardless of age or gender of candidates, place of birth and origin, as well as reputation and history of a politician’s parents are important.

The public’s criteria for politicians’ families also vary by gender. In similar situations, such as divorce and foreign spouse, women politicians are treated more harshly and discriminated against more than men.

Politicians’ circle of acquaintance is also important for their career. The circle of acquaintances of politicians consists of local associations, peers, alumni, party factions, e-networks, and various associations, clubs, and NGOs. These include the arts, sports, social celebrities, professionals, and ordinary citizens.

According to the survey, conservative-style values and principles in tradition-dominated cultures tend to exclude or limit the political participation of youth and women. These tradition-dominant cultures have been enriched and strengthened in some
ways during the previous social system, and have entered the era of democracy, and have been challenged by the new social and cultural system.

Due to all these factors, young people and women are reluctant to participate in politics.

Misheel Lkhasuren