Few, if any, region in the world can beat the northern Swedish county of Västerbotten when it comes to democracy development and women’s participation in politics. Figures assembled by BarentsObserver show that the region in its last regional parliament elections (2010) had a voter turnout of as much as 86,2 percent. Furthermore, contrary to the situation in most other regions, the turnout is on the increase compared with the previous two elections.
Västerbotten is one of two Swedish regions included in the Barents Region. The county has a population of about 260.000.
The results put Västerbotten far ahead of its Barents neighbors. Data from northern Finland, Norway and Russia show a picture of considerably less voter activity. In Barents Russia, the election turnout is the lowest with the Republic of Karelia as the worst-off region (44,4%). In northern Finland, voter turnout in the last municipal elections were 61,1 percent and 64,6 percent in Lapland and Northern Ostrobotnia respectively. In the northern Norwegian regions, the voter turnout in the last regional parliament elections varied between 71-74 percent.
Västerbotten is also leading the ranking on the number of women in regional parliaments. Figures from the county’s regional legislative assembly show that the stake of woman is as high as 56,3 percent. On the bottom of the Barents ranking is the Russian region of Murmansk, which has only 16,7 percent women in its regional assembly.
No surprise, Västerbotten is also headed by a woman. Magdalena Andersson is a former member of parliament and was in 2012 appointed to the top regional post.
Västerbotten is governed from Umeå, a major university city where students make up almost half of the population. Also in the university, women play the leading role. Professor Lena Gustafsson runs the technology-oriented institution where 61 percent of the students are women.