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Pushing for Higher Female Voter Turnout and Representation in Politics

Pushing for Higher Female Voter Turnout and Representation in Politics

Pushing for Higher Female Voter Turnout and Representation in Politics


Women's participation in the election and women's representation in politics are two important aspects of building an inclusive democracy and strengthening gender equality. Unfortunately, in the context Indonesian politics, women's representation remains a challenge.

In fact, women are able to contribute significantly to the state by bringing a unique perspective, experience, and influence for more inclusive policy-making, said Wahyu Widiastuti, M.Sc., a lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIP) at Universitas Bengkulu (Unib).

"If women have a strong voice in the legislature, policies related to women's issues, such as the protection of women's rights, reproductive health, and gender equality, will get more attention," she said.

"However, to achieve better representation of women in politics, the participation of female voters in elections is also very important. This is because low female voter turnout can be one of the factors that hinder more women from winning seats on the Regional Representative Council (DPD).

"Women voters who are politically active and participate in elections can help ensure that women candidates get enough support to be elected," said Widi, who is currently completing a doctoral program at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT), specializing in Political Branding.

In the election of members of the House of Regional Representatives (DPD) for the 2019-2024 period, the number of female senators who secured DPD seats has not fully reached 30 percent, even though the law has mandated that at least 30 percent of the seats must be occupied by women. 

Of the 136 seats available in the DPD for 34 provinces in Indonesia, each province has the same allocation of 4 chairs. 

In the 2004-2009 period, only 27 women obtained senatorial seats. The number rose to 31 women in the following period of 2009-2014 and further increased to 34 women in 2014-2019. After three consecutive periods of not fulfilling the 30 percent seat requirement for women, the senatorial seats finally welcomed 40 women in the 2019-2024 period. This means that the 30 percent quota was achieved. 

In June 2022, the Directorate General of Population and Civil Registration of the Ministry of Home Affairs recorded that Indonesia's population reached 275.36 million. Based on gender, 50.48% of the population is male and the remaining 49.52% is female. 

Referring to the Permanent Voter List of the 2019 General Election, there are 192,828,520 voters, consisting of 190,770,329 domestic voters and 2,058,191 overseas voters. Overall, the number of female voters is higher compared to the number of male voters. 

The election commission recorded 95,401,580 female voters in Indonesia and 1,155,464 female voters abroad. However, the number of female DPD members has almost never met the 30 percent quota. 

A number of women activists once campaigned for #WomenVoteWomen to encourage more women to take part in the Parliament. However, in practice, the high number of women voters, who are almost equal to men, does not necessarily guarantee that vote support for women will be greater. A number of regions are even known to have zero female members of the DPD. 

Widi said the correlation between women's representation in DPD RI and the number of women voters can be interpreted in two directions. Firstly, when women's representation increases, it can provide inspiration and motivation for other female voters to participate and cast their votes in the election. Strong representation can set an example for women across Indonesia and encourage them to be actively involved in the political process. 

Secondly, high female voter turnout can also have a positive impact on women's representation. When the number of female voters increases, political parties and candidates are more likely to consider women's issues and nominate more women for the senatorial seats. Active female voters can be a power that encourages political parties to pay more attention to gender representation.

"However, in the context of the election of DPD for the 2019-2024 period, the number of voters does not guarantee the number of seats that will be elected. Women voters will Not necessarily elect women.”

“But it is also important to note that not all female voters are reluctant to vote for female candidates in elections. Many female voters actively support female candidates and consider it important to encourage women's representation in politics, "she said.

The composition of DPD members above shows that provinces that do not have female senators include Aceh, Bangka Belitung Islands, Riau Islands, Bali, South Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, West Sulawesi, North Maluku and West Papua,  despite the fact that the provinces have a significant number of female voters as viewed from the composition of the Permanent Voters List. 

In Bali, for example, the number of female voters is 1.56 million out of the total number of voters which reaches 3,130,288 people. They are spread across 12,384 polling stations in 716 villages. 

Meanwhile, in Aceh, out of the total 3,523,774 voters on the list, around 1.79 million are women. In this province, the voters cast their votes in 15,610 polling stations located across 6,497 villages. In Bangka Belitung, the permanent voters list recorded a total of 932,569 voters, with the number of male and female voters being 475,000 and 456,000, respectively. There are 3,800 polling stations in 391 villages across the province.  

In the 2019-2024 period, South Sumatra is the only province with female senators, even though the province has fewer female voters compared to male voters based on the data from the permanent voter list. Female candidate, Hj. Eva Susanti, SE, obtained the highest vote of 344,143, followed by Amaliah with the second highest vote support of 342,098. Jialyka Maharani, the youngest senator from South Sumatra, who is 22 years old, ranked third with 337,954 votes. The next elected candidate is Arniza Nilawati, a lecturer who has been teaching for more than 30 years. This academician at the University of Muhammadiyah Palembang garnered 298,189 votes. 

Maluku Province also has three female senators. The first one is Mirati Dewaningsih,  who obtained 128,193 votes, followed by Anna Latuconsina with 119,091 votes. Anna was re-elected as a senator representing Maluku Province in 2014-2019. In the previous period of 2009-2014, she was also elected as a representative of Maluku Province. The other one is Novita Anakotta, a senator of Maluku Province representative for the 2014-2019 period who successfully garnered 62,501 votes. She was re-elected as DPD member for the 2019-2024 period with 85,862 votes. 

For the 2019-2024 period, several provinces managed to obtain two seats for female senators. These provinces include Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu, Jakarta, Central Java, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and Gorontalo. 

Widi said that there are several factors that can cause some female voters to be reluctant to vote for female candidates in elections. Among the factors are the persistence of gender stereotypes involving traditional roles, where some people may doubt the ability of female candidates to fulfill leadership demands that are often considered male territory.

"This is influenced by patriarchal culture. Some societies still believe that politics are men’s domination.”  


“This can hinder women’s participation and cause difficulties for female candidates to build a support base and gain the public trust of female voters.”

In addition, Widi said, female voters may be more interested in issues such as education, health, employment, and social policies that are generally related to their daily lives. 

"If female candidates are not considered capable or focused on these issues, female voters may prefer male candidates whom they think of as having greater experience or commitment to these issues," she said. 

Meanwhile, other inhibiting factors can include social injustice, family or community pressure, negative experiences with previous female candidates, or lack of information and ignorance about potentially capable female candidates.

In facing the next election, Widi emphasized that the government, related institutions, and civil society need to work together to encourage more active participation of women voters and increase women's representation in DPD. 

Crucial steps that should be taken to improve women's representation and increase women's voter participation are awareness campaigns, political education, and further support for women candidates. 

"To build a more inclusive and democratic society, women's representation and women's voter participation are two important aspects that must be taken seriously. By encouraging greater female voter participation and stronger female representation in legislative institutions, Indonesia can go in a better direction in achieving gender equality and creating policies that favor the interests of women," Widi concluded. 

Writer: Betty Herlina


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