Bulgaria: Why are the Women Politicians Always Second?

Politics | October 16, 2021, Saturday // 19:40|  views

Free Europe Bulgaria

No matter how the presidential election ends, the next Bulgarian vice president will be a woman again.

Out of 24 candidacies in the presidential elections, a total of 13 consist of a male presidential candidate and a female vice-presidential candidate. This also applies to the leaders in the race.

By comparison, there were only two female vice presidential candidates in 2016.

But why are women always second? They come to power, but still remain one step behind the men.


In the shadows

"It would be very nice if many more female presidential candidates run in the next elections," Maria Kasimova-Moase told Free Europe. She is running for vice president of the country together with Lozan Panov. The couple is supported by Democratic Bulgaria.

"Somehow we are still perceived as first ladies, "the woman next to", "the woman in the shadow of", and it is good to show the girls who grow up after us that a woman can have as good qualities a male candidate has” she added.

Kasimova-Moase is known as a journalist and writer with no experience in politics, but since she accepted Panov's cause, she decided to respond to the invitation to stand by him.

In the same situation as her are also includes Vice President Iliana Yotova, who is running for a second term, and Nevyana Miteva, who is running in the election with Anastas Gerdjikov.

DPS, which announced its candidacies at the latest, also envisions a woman for the vice-presidential post, Iskra Mihaylova.

"I have a lot of faith in a woman as someone who can pave the way, be a diplomat, a person who has a vision, who always takes care of others, and I am absolutely convinced that each of these women who are candidates for such a high post, have these qualities and exactly the same conviction” says Kasimova-Moase.


"To complete the profile"

However, the majority of women in the presidential race have chosen - or more often accepted - an invitation to be second.

"The stereotypes that 'politics is a man's job' definitely have a role to play," said political scientist Ruzha Smilova. It is about the expectations of a woman to put her roles of mother and wife first, and her political career does not suggest that.

"Today, as in the past, the position of women as runners-up is more for decoration or to complement the profile, rather than as leading candidates," Smilova said.


"Communist Feminism"

Europe's history shows that these expectations should be obsolete. Not only Bulgarian women, but also women throughout the Eastern bloc in the middle of the last century received many civil rights for which the West is not yet ready.

But here the key is in the phrase "received rights". The place of women in communist countries was not won by battles, but lowered from above as an element of ideology. It became the norm for women to work, to vote, sometimes - and to take leadership positions.

In 1947, the first minister was appointed - Tsola Dragoycheva, one of the active figures in the liquidation of the Bulgarian democratic opposition. Later, other names appeared on the political scene, such as Elena Lagadinova and Lyudmila Zhivkova, the dictator's daughter.

But the path seemingly open to women in communism is never began to be seen as part of the idea of ​​equality. The system did indeed saw the woman as a labor force, but it didn’t stop perceiving her as a housewife. Instead of having an equal distribution in the activities of the two sexes, the woman did everything she had to do before, together with her profession.

"In this aspect of life, communist feminism does not try to make corrections" Albena Shkodrova wrote in her study Soc Gourmet. "The woman's responsibility to prepare food in the family was directly transferred from the patriarchal society of pre-communist Bulgaria," she said.

Artificially introduced social equality collapsed rapidly after the end of the regime.

"The biggest collapse in the representation of women in our country was in the early 90's, when it seemed that the view began to be systematically imposed that the role of women is to be mothers and wives, and that their participation in public life is an ideology of "the communist past, which must be overcome in a 'normal European state' that the Bulgarians hoped to build quickly," said Ruzha Smilova.

According to her, however, the Europe that Bulgaria aspired to in the 1990s is already changing. "It soon became clear that minimum quotas were being introduced in party lists in this Europe to ensure a more adequate representation of women. In our country, this idea of ​​quotas is still not accepted well" said Smilova.


Women in politics in numbers

For Europe, the visible side of change began in 1979 with the election of Margaret Thatcher as Britain's first Prime Minister. Since then, dozens of women on the continent have held the highest executive positions, with Angela Merkel ruling the longest.

At present, there are a total of 12, and in addition there are countries in which women in the executive branch are equal to or more than men. Sweden and Spain, for example, some of the countries with the highest percentage of women in local government, have so far had no women prime ministers.

However, Bulgaria lags behind in both indicators. According to NSI data, the ratio of men to women in the National Assembly in 2018 was 72.9% to 27.1%, and in the Council of Ministers - 76.2% to 23.8%.

There was one woman prime minister in the caretaker government who ruled for three months - Reneta Indjova in 1994. There were three vice presidents and zero female presidents.

Only GERB from the big parties nominated a woman candidate for president and this was Tsetska Tsacheva, with whom in 2016 the party lost the elections.


"This is the future"

Here the question arises, if a woman becomes head of state or prime minister of Bulgaria, whether society will perceive her as an equivalent authority.

"Society still lives with a lot of prejudice against women, and that's sad. So I try to just work by showing good examples, talking to people. "People are not to blame for using some stable concepts, they just haven't had the opportunity to break them down with specific meetings," Kasimova-Moase said.

"It really would be very difficult for such a woman. But I'm convinced it's a matter of character and there are great women, great strong characters. I am also convinced that this is the future. Not for women to rule the world, but for men and women to have the same opportunity to be the best candidates for the respective positions. Because otherwise we would go to some other extreme, which again will not be useful to anyone," she added.


"Caring for women's causes"

Last but not least, the paradox remains whether the increased representation of women in public life leads to greater attention to issues related to women's rights, such as unequal pay for women and other forms of discrimination, violence against women and others.

"Topics are almost non-existent in women-dominated media, court decisions - including our Constitutional Court, where there are women - are also not sensitive to these topics," Smilova said. She cites Cornelia Ninova as an example, who not only did not support the Istanbul Convention, but was also responsible for its failed ratification.

"That is, even when we have women in high positions - and in this respect we are one of the leaders in the EU - this does not guarantee greater care for women's causes."

/Free Europe Bulgaria

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