If there is one thing the divided and fragmented political forces in Egypt could agree upon when designing the law for the most recent elections, it was to remove the quota for women. Islamists, youth revolutionary coalitions and political parties disagreed on virtually everything, but when it came to the quota that set aside 64 seats for women in the 500-plus seat parliament, they agreed it must go.
The parliament’s quota system, which was introduced by former president Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, had been used by an authoritarian regime to bring into office women from the ruling party. In Egypt’s quota-less parliament today, there are eight women out of 508 MPs – less than 2%, and down from the previous 12%.
It is ironic that when the quota was announced in June 2009 it was hailed by the international community as a hallmark of the country moving closer to democracy, and yet in post-Mubarak Egypt it was rejected as a symbol of authoritarian rule.