A Venus wish to politicos on Mars .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - Three political leaders, known for the depth of their disagreements, have united to support women in Turkey’s politics - but only in a photo dreamed up for a billboard campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

Soon billboards around the country will bear a photo of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arm in arm with opposition leaders, Deniz Baykal and Devlet Bahçeli, supporting a common cause.

Under the photo the banner reads: "All three of us have the same view: our target is to have women make up 50 percent of candidates for local administration."

It will certainly be a surprise to see the leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or the AKP, with the opposition People’s Republican Party, or the CHP, and National Movement Party, or MHP, who can barely agree on anything, united over a single cause.

A closer inspection of the billboard, however, will reveal that this is a work of fiction, as the billboard itself reads: "Warning: this is the product of the dreams of women who are crying out against the 1 percent presence of women in local administrations and who want to participate in politics."

The photo will be pasted onto 1,376 billboards across Turkey as part of the campaign launched yesterday by a nongovernmental organization, founded to support female candidates in politics.

"Women are half of Turkey’s population but represented by only 1 percent in local administrations," said Semiha Öztürk Pişirici from The Association for the Education and Support of Female Candidates, or KADER, speaking at a press conference for the launch of the campaign ahead of the March 29 local elections. In 3, 225 municipalities, there are only 18 female mayors. Of the 81 cities, only one Ğ Tunceli in the Southeast Ğ has a female mayor. "It seems that you have to be a man to enter local politics, and top three parties have once more forgotten women," Pişirici said.

"Under normal circumstances they never agree on anything. But in fact the leaders of these three parties seem to have agreed on not having women in politics," she said.

The AKP, CHP and MHP are targeted in the campaign because they have the means to make legal amendments to increase the presence of women in politics, as all three are in Parliament. The small number of female deputies is a clear testament to their lack of commitment toward women in politics. Out of the 546 deputies in Parliament, only 50 are women.

Of the AKP’s 338 deputies, 30 are female, as are just nine of the CHP’s 98 deputies. It is even less for the MHP, where only two women are part of the party’s 69 deputies. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, has not been targeted in the latest campaign. Of the DTP’s 21 seats, eight are held by women. The one remaining female deputy is from the Democratic Left Party, or DSP, which does well locally.

Of the 18 female mayors, nine come from the pro-Kurdish party. Five are from the CHP, two from the AKP and one each from the Social Democratic People’s Party, or SHP, and one the True Path Party, or the DYP. The general ratio of female mayors in the world is 9 percent, as opposed to Turkey’s 0.05 percent. While drawing attention to this discrepancy, the president of KADER, Hülya Gülbahar, said: "All the other countries that have a significant presence of women in politics have reached this point by allotting quotas to female candidates."

Prime Minister Erdoğan is not warm to the idea of a quota for women in politics. Last October, in an answer to Gülbahar’s request for quota, Erdoğan made the controversial statement that quotas did not provide equality for women. "Does the U.S. have a quota or France? Do you want to be in Rwanda, you can go there," he had said.

Need for quota
He reiterated his view last month in a statement regarding local elections. While saying that the number of female mayors from the AKP would increase in local elections, he said prescribing a quota for women was a sign of disrespect to women.

"A quota means subjecting women to men’s mercy. Men will condescend and women will enter Parliament. This is not acceptable," he said. The CHP on the other hand, endorses the implementation of quota, but only in house, of 25 percent.

"I have recently been traveling. All I saw were men on the billboards for local election campaigns. Women candidates can only campaign through leaflets. Parties should make funding available for women candidates," Gülbahar said. "If KADER wants to support women candidates, it should also have a fund, maybe through sponsorships. Without financial support, women cannot enter politics," said Nevval Sevindi, who recently lost an election to lead the Democratic Party, or DP.