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Digest of Middle East Studies

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Politics and government -- Middle East


Does electing Islamist parties help or hurt women? Due to Ennahda winning a plurality in the 2011 elections and women from all parties winning 31% of seats, Tunisia offers an opportunity to test the impact of legislator gender and Islamist orientation on women's representation. Using original 2012 surveys of 40 Tunisian parliamentarians (MPs) and 1200 citizens, we find that electing female and Islamists MPs improves women's symbolic and service responsiveness by increasing the likelihood that female citizens are aware of and contact MPs. Electing Islamist female MPs has a positive impact on women's symbolic and service responsiveness, but decreases the likelihood that men will interact with legislators. We argue that Islamist deputies are more responsive to women due to an Islamic mandate effect—that is, Islamist parties' efforts to institutionalize their constituency relations, provide services to the marginalized through direct contact with citizens, and respect norms of piety by using female parliamentarians to reach women in sex-segregated spaces. While Islamist parties positively impact some dimensions of women's representation, they also reinforce traditional gender relations. Our results extend the literature on Islam, gender, and governance by demonstrating that quotas and party institutionalization improve women's representation in clientelistic contexts.


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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Digest of Middle East Studies. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Digest of Middle East Studies, 2022.



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