Women: High Voter Turnout but Low Representation in Politics
The General Elections Commission (KPU) has finalized the permanent voter lists for the 2024 elections, where the number of voters reaches more than 204.8 million people, consisting of 203,056,748 voters in Indonesia and 1,750,475 voters abroad.
According to KPU Commissioner Betty Epsilon Idroos, out of the hundreds of millions of voters, the number of female voters was recorded at 102,588,719, slightly higher than the number of male voters at 102,218,503.
Unfortunately, says Betty, the high number of female voters is not necessarily reflected in the representation of women in legislative and executive institutions. As of the 2019 elections, the affirmed figure of a 30 percent political quota for women has never been reached.
The lack of women's representation also occurs in other institutions, such as the general electoral bodies. Of the seven elected KPU commissioners, only one is a woman. Similarly, in the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), there is only one woman out of five commissioners.
Women are also underrepresented in the House of Representatives (DPR). The 30 percent quota for women offered by political parties is often only used as a tool to meet administrative requirements during the registration process at the KPU. In the 2019–2024 period, as of January 2021, there were only 123 women in parliament, or about 21.39 percent.
The regulation that hinders women's representation in politics is Article 8 Paragraph (2) of the General Election Commission Regulation No. 10 of 2023 on the nomination of members of the House of Representatives, the Provincial Regional House of Representatives, and the Regency/City Regional House of Representatives.
This article states that calculating 30 percent of female candidates in each district will result in a fractional number. The calculation is rounded down if the two decimal places after the comma are less than 50. This provision has the potential to reduce women's representation because rounding down will most likely bring the percentage of female candidates below 30 percent.
The director of the Center for Political Studies (Puskapol) at the University of Indonesia, Hurriyah, is not surprised by the low representation of women in state institutions. According to her, issues related to women's representation have not been considered crucial, despite the fact that women's participation in elections is often higher, both in presidential, legislative, and senatorial elections. "The issue of women's representation has not become a public issue," Hurriyah said.
In the 2019 elections, women's higher participation was not directly proportional to the level of electability of the women who occupied seats in the House of Representatives. This is because women are still undervalued to this day. Not only that, women who are caught in legal cases, such as corruption, often receive a news framing that is worse than that of men. Instead of focusing on the crime, the media often emphasizes the creation of gender bias. As a result, there are not many positive stories in the media about women's struggles in politics.
"The public does not know much about the outstanding performance of women politicians in parliament, even though these women in the House of Representatives and the Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) have become champions of many public policies," she explained.
In her research, Hurriyah found that about 40 percent of women elected to the legislature were associated with kinship or dynastic politics. This, she said, weakens women's potential to enter the legislative space in the House of Representatives. "This does not mean that they are not qualified, but it is a problem. It also goes against the spirit of promoting women's representation," she explained.
The high turnout of women at the ballot box has also been used by activists to promote women's representation in Parliament and the Senate as much as possible. The political affirmation policy of 30 percent women's quota is claimed to be the result. Even after the reform, there have been many slogans such as "women candidates mean a lot" to support women to run for political seats in the House of Representatives and the Regional Representative Council (DPD) and to raise public awareness that women's candidacy is important.
However, these initiatives need more political support. The role of party officials will have a major impact. "Women politicians, who are very critical of public issues, often face many obstacles, and they are not able to push policies related to the issues in parliament because they are co-opted in the diffraction process," she said.
Political Parties' Strategies for Winning the Women's Vote in the 2024 Elections
A recent survey by Kompas Research and Development shows that women's enthusiasm to participate in the 2024 elections is quite high. One indicator is that the abstention rate among women is lower at 0.2 percent compared to 1.2 percent among men.
In order to win the 2024 elections, political parties need to develop a strategy to win the sympathy of women. One of them is to read women's political preferences. According to the Kompas survey, most female voters in the 2024 election still choose the military, both TNI and Polri, which reached 20.9 percent.
Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, chairwoman of the Indonesian Unity Party's (Perindo) central committee for defense, security and cyber, acknowledged that efforts to win women's votes have been difficult. Perindo itself has the highest number of female voters compared to other non-parliamentary parties, according to survey results.
But this political capital is still not enough. When she goes into the field, she still faces difficulties because the patriarchal element embedded in the culture of society is still strong.
"This is proven when we go down to the community, it feels that the dominance of male politicians is still strong, especially in areas that adhere to patriarchy. The affirmation of women in politics is often seen from the point of view of numbers, not quality," Susaningtyas said.
She urged all parties to support women's political participation, rather than just blaming women. "'Women supporting women' must also be promoted as an effort to defend women's political rights and their position in society," she said.
On the other hand, the National Awakening Party (PKB), as an old party that has been in existence since the reformation, also faces difficulties in reaching out to women. Perempuan Bangsa PKB chairperson Siti Mukaromah said her party's efforts were to maximize the existence of the PKB women's wing organization. In this way, female politicians in her party are given a stage to compete and prove themselves.
"We make this effort not only in the elections, but also through various community empowerment activities, social and humanitarian activities, and activities or activities with electoral implications that we have done long before the election process begins," said Siti Mukaromah.