Com­ment Any mayor you like, as long as she’s a woman...

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

– four out of a grand to­tal of 17, since you asked.

For us, may­oral gov­ern­ment, launched nearly 20 years ago in the early days of New Labour, has clearly been the slow­est of burn­ers.

Such, though, is the hu­mungous scale of our so-called ‘lo­cal’ gov­ern­ment that, even if the Blair Gov­ern­ment had re­quired, rather than re­quested, all coun­cils to adopt some form of elected may­oral gov­ern­ment, we would still have barely 400 may­ors, com­pared to France’s 36,000, Ger­many’s 11,000, Italy’s 8,000 and so on.

True, not all these are di­rectly elected, but all will be prom­i­nent and pow­er­ful fig­ures in their com­mu­ni­ties, and all qual­ify for the World Mayor Prize.

Next ques­tion, then, is how many of these tens of thou­sands of world may­ors are women?

The CMF’s es­ti­mate is only about 20 per cent, and even within that im­bal­ance there is a fur­ther one: city size.

Women may­ors are rarely in the big­gest cities: just one woman mayor in the world’s 50 largest cities, five in the 100 largest, and 26 (9 per cent) in the 300 largest, which equates to pop­u­la­tions of over 500,000.

There are, how­ever, some out­stand­ing ex­cep­tions. Best known is prob­a­bly Anne Hi­dalgo, Span­ish Catholic-born, athe­ist so­cial­ist Mayor of Paris.

Vir­ginia Raggi is the wildly pop­u­lar mayor of the debt- and cor­rup­tion­rid­den city of Rome, and lead­ing mem­ber of the pop­ulist party of the mo­ment, the Five Star Move­ment; and Madrid’s mayor is for­mer Supreme Court judge, Manuela Car­mena.

Most re­mark­able, though, is surely Yuriko Koike, Mayor (though of­fi­cially ‘Gover­nor’) of Tokyo, the world’s sixth largest city.

Un­suc­cess­ful in her at­tempt last year to form a new party and chal­lenge sit­ting Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, she is back now at­tend­ing to the small mat­ter of pre­par­ing Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

My Ja­panese in­ter­roga­tor’s real ques­tion, there­fore, was: if, even in her coun­try with its still con­ser­va­tive gen­der role at­ti­tudes, a woman can be elected to the top lo­cal gov­ern­ment post, isn’t a World Mayor Prize open to only a fifth of the world’s may­ors, both un­nec­es­sary and some­what pa­tro­n­is­ing?

I could demon­strate sta­tis­ti­cally how Koike re­ally is the ex­cep­tion prov­ing the rule, but I needed more, on pre­vi­ous World Mayor Prize re­cip­i­ents.

If these things worked per­fectly, the CMF’s es­ti­mate of 20 per cent women may­ors would mean than the eight rounds of World Mayor Prizes to date – each award­ing a main prize and two run­ners-up Com­men­da­tions – would have pro­duced two women prize win­ners and per­haps three com­men­da­tions. Re­mark­ably, they have.

The 2005 Award went to Athens Mayor, Dora Bakoy­an­nis, and 2008 win­ner was He­len Zille, Cape Town Mayor, and within a year Pre­mier of Western Cape Prov­ince.

Less good news, though, is that those two win­ners plus one run­nerup came in the first four rounds, with women tak­ing just two com­men­da­tions in the four rounds since 2008.

My to­tally proof­less hunch, there­fore, is that the CMF or­gan­is­ers, con­cerned at the trend, de­cided to make a virtue out of fix­ing this year’s elec­tion.

My ac­tual re­sponse to my Ja­panese ques­tioner, how­ever, was that, for essen­tially the same rea­sons as I have long sup­ported elec­toral gen­der quo­tas to in­crease women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in na­tional par­lia­ments, a one-off re­stric­tion of a World Mayor Prize to women may­ors seemed ac­cept­able and should be given max­i­mum pub­lic­ity. Chris Game is a lec­turer at the In­sti­tute of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Stud­ies, at the Univer­sity of


Women may­ors are rarely in the big­gest cities: just one woman mayor in the world’s 50 largest cities

> Yuriko Koike, mayor of Tokyo

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