As a direct result of a new French law requiring 50% of candidates on municipal election ballots to be women, the number of women municipal officeholders more than doubled from 22% in 1995 to 47.5% in 2001. At the county level, where there was no candidate parity requirement, the number of women officeholders grew only from 7% in 1998 to 9% in 2001. The March 18 election was the first time the gender parity law was in place.
The new measure goes further than any other in the world to ensure equal representation of men and women in politics and enjoys strong public support. According to a February 4 New York Times report, sixty-three percent of people polled believe the law will provide a better choice of candidates and will result in better governance. Sixty-five percent voiced a desire for a woman mayor in their town. Eighty percent believe a woman in office would result in improved education, social services and health programs and 60 percent thought women political leaders would bring about improvements in the economy, transportation systems and sports.