The study “Unequal democracies: who does (not) have a seat in parliament?” by Lea Elsässer and Armin Schäfer was presented on 7 October in Ankara and on 8 October in Istanbul. The results of the study were presented by Michael Jennewein (FES Regional Office Democracy of the Future) from Vienna. The study was conducted on behalf of the FES Regional Office Democracy of the Future in Vienna and examines the social composition of parliaments in five different countries (France, Spain, Poland, England and Turkey) according to gender, age, education and social class. It concludes that in all countries women, young people and workers are underrepresented. What impact does this have on the democratic process and the representation of the interests of these groups and how can the lack of representation be overcome?
These and other questions were discussed with relevant civil society actors and representatives of women's organizations during the presentation of the study. The debate focused in particular on the situation in the Turkish parliament, where young people under 30, workers and women are strongly underrepresented. With only 16 per cent women, Turkey lags far behind the other four OSCE member states.
The overrepresentation of university graduates in all of the countries studied was also a focus of discussion. The study highlights not only the high share of representatives with university education, but also the high number of "career politicians", referring to members of parliament who have spent almost their entire professional lives in political professions before entering parliament. In Turkey, the proportion of business owners and self-employed professionals is also much higher in comparison to the other countries studied. In the end, the majority represented in the Turkish parliament – as well as in the other countries of the study– reflects only a minority of the society.
During the debate with invited guests, it was discussed how this situation could be overcome and which measures could therefore be implemented, especially in the Turkish context. Representatives of women's organisations emphasized that measures for an equal society and the change of roles can contribute to the greater political involvement of women. Furthermore, it became clear that representation is particularly dependent on time and monetary resources, which are often not available to young people, non-academics and socially weak groups in society. In order to ensure more equal representation in parliament, the importance of legal and structural arrangements that provide financial resources to engage in policy-making were discussed.