Three Obstacles in The Low Representation of Women in the House of Representatives


Eva Kusuma Sundari (54) was surprised when she learned that her listing number on the candidate list had dropped to number five, just a day before the submission to the Electoral Commission on July 17th, 2018. During the internal party plenary, this PDI-P politician said that she was listed at number three.

On the ballot paper, Eva’s position was overtaken by Arteria Dahlan, who was also competing for votes in Election Area VI, East Java covering Blitar city and district, Kediri, and Tulugangung. To Eva, the listing number on the ballot paper affects the electability of the candidates.

“I wasn’t on the electable number. I was at number five. It was difficult to win,” Eva expressed her disappointment to in Senayan on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019.

Her concerns were proven when the counting ended. She only managed to get 80,747 votes out of 100,000 targeted votes. Her votes were 20,000 less than her PDI-P colleague, Arteria Dahlan, the politician who promotes the revision of Law on Commission on Corruption Eradication.

She said she did not know the exact mechanism in reshuffling the listing number for PDI-P candidates. But she regretted that she will not be able to fight for women’s agenda from within the parliament building.

In the previous period, Eva was one of the main supporters for the revision of the 1974 Law on Marriage No. 1. In this regulation, the minimum age for men and women to be married is increased to 19 years of age.

“If only I was listed among the three electable top numbers, my chance (to be elected) will be higher,” she said.


The Structure of Party vs Representation of Women

The Association of Election and Democracy (Perludem) deemed that the listing number has a great impact on the electability of a candidate. Based on their research, there were 1,021 men who obtained listing number 1, and only 235 women had it. A similar situation happened to listing number 2, only 375 women had it, which is not even half of the men who made up 858. Even worse, candidate number 1 and 2 are mostly the ones getting their entrance to Senayan.

Eva said this showed that parties are not promoting gender mainstreaming when it comes to listing number’s decision. Numbers 1 and 2 are usually prioritized for candidates who hold a structural position within the party. Unfortunately, this strategic position is rarely filled by women.

Within the structure of the Central Board of Representatives in PDI-P period of 2019 – 2024, for instance, only 7 women out of 27 members. They are Megawati Soekarno Putri, Puan Maharani, Ribka Tjiptaning, Sri Rahayu, Tri Rismaharini, Wiranti Soekamdani, and Sadarestuwati. Five of them were elected to be the legislative members in the 2019 election. While out of the total of 128 seats in the House of Representatives, PDI-P only managed to get 25 seats or equal to 19.5 percent of what the women achieved.

“It is a culture, a macho culture, and many parties are already predominantly patriarchal. Even though Megawati is leading, the culture (in PDI-P) is still paternal, it is not easy,” Eva said.

The challenge for women to get to the top listing also admitted by Edriana Noerdin, the candidate from Gerindra for Election Area I in West Sumatra. This Women Research Institute’s activist had to be satisfied to be listed on number 3 when competing in the legislative election.

“Number 3 is given and it is a must for women. Without efforts, we will be placed on number three anyway,” Adriana said when she was contacted on Friday, October 18th, 2019.

Article No. 246 in the 2017 Law No. 7 on General Election obliged one female candidate out of three candidates proposed by the party. Unfortunately, according to Edriana, parties interpret this as automatically listing the female candidate as the third candidate.

In the research released by Perludem, listing number 3 is mostly filled by women, Unfortunately, out of 781 female candidates on listing number 3, only 15 were elected.

“Only when women are listed on number 1 or 2, then we can say that there had been serious efforts from the party. If it is still on number 3, that is not considered as being serious,” Adriana said.

After tens of years having the career in the women’s movement and seasoned in policy drafting, Adriana thought that would be her ticket to glory, to get her to the top listing. In reality, lobbying plays a part too. The predicament was getting more difficult when Adriana is not the main donor and has no historical ties with Gerindra.

“The party logic is, listing number 1 will be given to the incumbent or those who are considered as donors,” she said.

To enroll herself in the General Election, Adriana spent IDR 4 billion to go on a political safari throughout her Election Area for a year. Financial and other efforts spent had no capability whatsoever in increasing her electability and vote counts. Her name did not make it to the 78 candidates from Gerindra who managed to enter Senayan, 13 of them were women.

The Fruit of Political Dynasty

Putri Komarudin (26), was one of the female candidates appointed by Golkar and listed on number 2. Her career in this party is relatively successful because she managed to gain the position as the Chief of Women’s Empowerment Department of the Party Leadership Council in Golkar when she was just a three-year member.

The 2019 legislative election was her debut to get the seat in the House of Representatives. She gained votes in Election Area VII in West Java that covers Purwakarta District, Karawang, and Bekasi. Here, Ade Komarudin, who is Putri’s father, managed to obtain 167,000 votes in 2014.

Putri is hesitant to be called utilizing her father’s political position. As a new candidate, she claimed to have immense hearing sessions with her constituents. There were approximately 600 hearing sessions she conducted within the seven months period where she spent approximately IDR 1 billion.

“I had to prove that I have my own color. I have the unseen qualities, not only because of my father’s big name,” she said during the discussion on “Reading the Electability of Women in the 2019 Election” in September 2019.

Not too far different from Putri, Athari Gauti (27), the candidate from PAN, also managed to get to the top listing in the legislative election. She won most of the votes in Election Area I in West Sumatra, the area where previously domineered by her father, Epyardi Asda.

Research done by The Centre of Political Research of the University of Indonesia mentioned that 40 percent of the female legislative candidates who managed to enter Senayan in the 2019 General Election came from the political dynasty, may it be a relative of the political elites, state officials, or local Government leaders.

The Secretary-General of Indonesian Women’s Coalition, Dian Kartikasari, assessed that family relations often provides an easier process for women to get into the candidate’s list. This had caused injustice for other women outside of the circle.

“They are considered as having the electability and can afford to finance themselves, even though their political capacity is lacking,” Dian said in the KPI office in September 2019.

With the current open proportional election system, Dian thinks women cannot only rely on their capacity but must also have the political power and electability. This can be built within the party by nurturing female cadres in various strategic positions.

“The goal is to get to the top listing for the legislative members,” Dian explained.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Perludem, Titi Anggraini, promotes parties to place women on the top of the list, because since the 1999 election until 2014, the number of women in the House of Representatives has never reached to 30 percent. Titi thinks gender mainstreaming must be the priority in each line of policies, may it be the internal party or in regulations.

“If parties want to get serious, the affirmation must be concrete. If not, there will always be a crack to do it halfheartedly,” Titi expressed during the Discussion on Reading the Electability of Women in the 2019 Election.


Under The Shadow of ASEAN Countries

The 30 percent of female affirmation policy was regulated in the 2003 Law No. 12 on Election of Legislative Members. But 15 years after its implementation, with all the revisions, the number of women in the House of Representatives in Indonesia has never reached to 30 percent. The result of the 2019 General Election showed that the highest achievement for female seats in the house was 20.5 percent.

Among the ASEAN countries, Indonesia sits on the sixth rank in its female representation in the parliament. Below the Phillippines, Laos, Vietnam, and Singapore.

The 20.5 percent of female representation in the Indonesian parliament even sits far lower than Timor Leste’s. The country that has a direct border with East Nusa Tenggara part of Indonesia has 38 percent of female members of parliament.

Alda Exposto, the Director of Redi Veto, a women’s organization consortium in Timor Leste sees the increase of seats for women happened in her country after the implementation of the Law on National Parliamentarian Election, the 2006 Law No. 9 on Parliamentarian Election. Each party is obliged to endorse one female candidate out of three proposed candidates. If the party violates this regulation, they will be disqualified from the election.

“Now it is automatically passed the 30 percent,” Alda said when met in Dili on Monday, September 17th, 2019.

Another important differentiating factor with the Indonesian election is the utilization of the closed-list system in Timor Leste. The citizens select parties, not candidates, while in Indonesia we have two options, parties or candidates.

This closed system, according to Alda, is beneficial to all female candidates, because one out of the three candidates chosen as the legislative members from each party, is a woman. Thus, the more seats won by the party, the more opportunities for the women.

“We don’t fight for quota anymore now, that was just the door or the window. It is not the percentage that matters anymore now, but how to make men and women equal,” she said.

According to the Director of Caucus Iha Politika, Terensinha Maria Cordosa, even though the number of women in the parliament has surpassed the 30 percent figure, the role of women in the legislation has not been optimized. Most of the members are still passive when it comes to drafting the pro-women policies, and the gender perspective is not reflected in the budgeting yet.

“Most of them have not realized who are they representing (the female members of parliament),” Maria said.

Overseas Voters’ Turnout Shrink

Binti Rosidah is one of more than 1.6 million Indonesians living and working in Malaysia. She has been working as a domestic worker in Kuala

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