Do dominant parties comply with its gender quota rule when they face an increased electoral threat? Contrary to conventional wisdom, we question whether increased levels of party competition are likely to be positively correlated with women's representation in sub-Saharan African countries where ruling parties have established voluntary gender quotas. By exploring the outcome of the 2011 municipal elections in South Africa and Cape Town municipalities in particular, we consider three rival causal logics for explaining the low levels of women's representation in municipalities in Western Cape Province. The study finds that low levels of women's representation are not fully explained by the shift in power from a party with gender quota rules to one without. Rather, we find a reversed contagion effect where the dominant party may imitate the strategy of the rising party without gender quotas and/or take steps to ensure that all factions within the party remain satisfied by providing them safe seats—strategies that may result in fewer women candidates.

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