In Europe, politics are often perceived as being reserved for a particular sector of the population and as failing to represent its diversity. In addition to the under-representation of women in most European countries – a situation which is studied in Ms Centemero’s report (Doc. 13571) – there is also a very low representation of young people, of persons with an immigrant background, of persons with disabilities and of LBGT people.
This failure to represent all sectors of the population may result in voters’ lack of confidence in political leaders. It may also lead to voters losing interest and discourage those who would like to become involved in politics. Under-represented categories which are already involved in politics sometimes encounter difficulties in gaining access to the decision-making bodies of traditional political systems that open the way to political responsibilities at local, national and European level. They sometimes also become the target of attacks and hate speech during election campaigns or once they have been elected.
Opening up politics to diversity and the emergence of leaders from under-represented groups not only strengthen Europe but are also an effective way of countering discrimination and stereotypes and of fostering equality. Political parties and parliaments should take steps to encourage their participation and allow them to accede to the highest responsibilities.
The Parliamentary Assembly should study the mechanisms that exist within political parties and national parliaments so as to ensure that all sectors of the population are represented. It should identify good practices in this field and raise awareness on the need to improve representativeness of the political world in order to combat this democratic deficit.