With more women and members of foreign descent than any previous National Assembly, France’s newly-elected parliament has moved a step closer to mirroring French society, even as ethnic-minority groups demand more diversity in politics.
Long a bastion of white male power, France’s National Assembly now counts more women and members of visible minorities than any previous French legislature.
Among the 577 members of parliament elected in the country’s last general election in June,155 (27%) are women while nine belong to ethnic minorities.
By comparison, only 107 seats went to female candidates, and only one to a black candidate in Metropolitan France, in the previous election in 2007.
“We are making progress; parity between men and women has become a prominent issue now,” Réjane Sénac, a sociologist specialised in gender studies at Sciences-Po, told the AFP.
Most of these new lawmakers rode into the National Assembly with the majority Socialist Party and its allies: among the 280 Socialists elected, there are 106 women, including nine among the 18 Greens.
On the other hand, the right-wing UMP party and its allies is only represented by 27 women versus 194 men, prompting the feminist organisation Osez le féminisme to award it a “medal for political sexism”.
All this despite the fact that male-female parity in political institutions is a principle that has been enshrined in the French constitution since 2008.
Overall, France, which was previously ranked 18th out of 27 European Union countries in terms of gender parity (measured as the proportion of women in parliament) is now in ninth position, with roughly 27%. The European average is 24.6%.
Still, Dominique Poggi, another sociologist and expert in gender issues, believes the “time of politics being run by aged white men” in France is over. “Women can now find a place, as can young people and members of ethnic minorities,” she told FRANCE 24.
Not quite a rainbow parliament yet
French citizens of foreign descent have also made inroads into politics, representing eight new members of parliament (nine were elected, but Algerian-born Kader Arif is letting his substitute Emilienne Poumirol step in so that he can retain his position as junior minister for veterans).
Seybah Dagoma, a 34-year-old lawyer of Tchadian descent and founding member of a left-wing think tank, was elected in a Parisian constituency.
Also joining the ranks of Socialist lawmakers are Razzy Hammadi, born of an Algerian father and a Tunisian mother and former president of the Socialists’ youth movement, as well as Malek Boutih, of Algerian origin and former director of the SOS Racisme rights group.
Kheira Bouziane and Chaynesse Khirouni, both Algerian-born, won seats in the east of France, while Corinne Narassiguin, from an overseas French territory, and Pouria Amirshahi, Iranian-born, are among the 11 representatives of French citizens living abroad.
But the French council of black organisations, known by its acronym CRAN, says these eight new ethnically-diverse faces are not enough. It points out that they represent less than 2% of the National Assembly, while 10% of French citizens are foreign-born.
The CRAN has called for a law to ensure ethnic diversity in politics.
The new French parliament is also one of fresh faces: 234 (40%) of its members did not hold office in the previous legislature.