Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Participation in Political Life

Increasing chances to participate in political life are an essential part of good governance and not just concerned with "gender". Those with disabilities also deserve a better deal to ensure fair representation. Compiled by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Whilst it seems some are tired of hearing of gender and politics, there are other issues at stake in political participation and fair representation in a quality democracy. Of course gender is not just about "women in politics", it includes men also, it is just that usually female representation is low compared with males. If it was the other way round, it would still be a "gender" issue. The disparity is all the more obvious since women in most countries are in a majority but vastly underrepresented. However those with disabilities should be encouraged to run for elected office. In the UK there was a public consultation on the topic and the government pledged it "is committed to equality for disabled people and an important part of restoring trust is to open up our democracy and ensure that our political system better reflects the people it serves". The consultation put forward a number of proposals to support disabled people into elected positions:

• the Government should work more with political parties (the gatekeepers) and local authorities as well as relevant organisations to raise awareness

•work with the above also to create a cross-party strategy programme

•provide training opportunities to help people stand for office

•establish a fund to support disability-related costs for those standing for office (eg care costs etc)

•work with political parties to analyse their policies on the topic and establish best practices

•establish a toolkit to encourage parties and local authorities to fulfill their legal duties (equality Acts etc)

Now there is funding (the Access to Elected Office programme) to support candidates with disabilities eg for by-elections, Mayors, and the UK parliament etc. Costs cover sign language interpreters, transport needs, a carer. The fund cannot be used for general campaigning costs. New rules also mean that some spending will no longer count towards election spending limits. Over time if implemented these measures can help to integrate talented people interested in politics in our democratic system.

Prof Dr Melanie Sully, November 2013