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Online Department Seminar: What Men Want: Politicians Strategic response to Gender Quotas

Wednesday, April 28, 2021, 3:30 pm – 5:10 pm

Tunisia's 2018 municipal elections, the first since the 2011 revolution, included the adoption of strict gender quotas that resulted in near-parity of male and female elected councillors. Despite this massive achievement for descriptive representation, fewer than 20 percent of the mayors -- selected from among these councillors -- were women. We argue that this gender gap in council leadership is the result of parties’ strategic behavior. To avoid "displacing" male leaders, parties placed female-headed lists (FHLs) in less important municipalities and those in which their previous electoral performance was weakest. By concentrating FHLs in weaker municipalities, female candidates were at a disadvantage during the mayoral selection process. We provide evidence of this theory using election data, an original survey of municipal council candidates, and interviews. This research highlights the role that party elites play in maintaining the existing political bargain at the expense of underrepresented groups, even where strict quotas are adopted.