Discussion / Event

Published: 05/12/2008

 The involvement of women in Indonesia’s formal politics has been guaranteed since the issuing of the Election Law No. 12/2003, which states the importance of affirmative action for women’s political participation by determining 30% from all the candidates of political parties in the parliament at the national and local levels. The affirmative action is often defined as a strategic effort to promote equal opportunities for marginalized groups in society, such as women or minority groups, who are less represented in the decision-making process. The importance of women’s involvement in politics, particularly at the people’s representative board itself, is not without a basis. It is due to the relatively low representation of women in the 2004 elections, only reaching 11.3%. This number experienced an increase of 2% in comparison to the results of the 1999 election which was only 9% at the national level.


However, the government issued a new regulation on elections which is expected to strengthen the involvement of women in formal politics, namely Election Law No. 10/2008. Article 8 paragraph (1) item (d) states that a political party may participate in the General Elections after fulfilling the requirement of including at least 30% women’s representation in the central/national board of the said party. The legalization of the 30% quota for women’s involvement in General Elections is seen as a victory for gender advocates and their struggle for Gender Equality and Equity. Furthermore, Article 66 paragraph (2) Law No. 10/2008 also regulates the General Elections Commission (KPU) at the national, provincial, and district/city levels to announce the percentage of women’s representation in the parties’ list of candidates in newspapers and national electronic media. Meanwhile, the Election Law Article 2 paragraph (3) regulates that the establishment of a political party must include 30% women’s representation. Furthermore, Article 20 on the management of political parties states that its formation should pay attention to women’s representation at the minimum quota, at the very least.


Prospect of 30% Women’s Representation in 2009 Election

The 2008 Election Law still caused several problems in a number of levels. First, in terms of substance, this law still did not firmly state the sanction for political parties which did not fulfill the 30% quota for women in their legislative candidate list. The sanction is limited to public-shaming the Party that failed to fulfill the quota in the press and other mass media. However, the concern is that this kind of sanction may not cause a deterrent effect if the public does not see it as a serious issue. Furthermore, the sanction did not affect or strengthen the parties’ commitment in fulfilling the 30% quota. Second, there is still a large number of parties that find difficulties in fulfilling the 30% quota for women in the legislative candidate list. At least 10 parties are only able to fulfill up to 27% of the quota. Parties are also prone to conducting violations in arranging the list of legislative candidates as many still fail to adhere to the Zipper system required by the Election Law. Third, many female legislative candidates are discovered as ineligible due to their failure in fulfilling administrative requirements. In addition, many women lack the much-needed support from the mass as well as funds and political experiences.


Based on a number of issues surrounding women’s representation in elections, Women Research Institute (WRI) as a research institute studied the impacts of the 30% quota of women’s representation in formal political institutions, as well as observed the association between women’s representation in formal political institutions and the allocation of gender budget.



The Delphi Panel which was held on 3 December 2008 in Jakarta is expected to gain recommendations for WRI’s research design under the theme of “Women and Politics in the Era of Regional Autonomy in Indonesia: Quota and Decentralization” (Women’s Political Participation in 2009 General Elections).


Delphi Panel, in particular, aims to:

  • Gain insights about issues regarding the effectiveness of the “30% quota policy” in increasing women’s representation in the parliament
  • Obtain insights regarding the implementation of the Election Law and the Political Party Law in ensuring the increase in women’s representation
  • Garner insights concerning the strategies developed by political parties to fulfill the 30% quota system.


The event that took place for two hours went dynamically. The participation of a number of well-known figures such as Nurul Arifin from Golkar Party, Sherisada Manaf from Democrat, Titi Sumbung from PDIP, Yuda Irlang (a female political observer), Masruchah from Secretary General of Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy (KPI), Ery Seda (a political observer from University of Indonesia), Olin Montero from Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal), and Wahyu from Indonesian Survey Institute (ISI) provided insightful inspirations which fed into the discussions.


Process of Discussion

WRI opened the Delphi Panel by explaining that WRI will be doing a research on “Women and Politics in the Era of Regional Autonomy in Indonesia: Quota and Decentralization”. Thus far, Indonesia has issued a number of laws and regulations regarding this issue. In this event, WRI asked for insights from participants of the Delphi Panel regarding the quota of women and regional autonomy.


WRI aims to understand to the extent of the 30% quota’s positive impacts. The Delphi Panel invites several practitioners who have been intensively working in the issue of women and politics.


The event was started by WRI’s presentation of the research design on Women and Politics in the Autonomy Era in Indonesia. WRI also welcomed inputs about the subject of research as well as recommendations of places as a target of research.


Findings of the Delphi Panel

The need to increase the participation and representation of women in legislative bodies received particular attention  from the government as well as NGOs. The government, through its affirmative action policy – Election Law No. 10/2008 –  which regulates the 30% quota, attempted to provide a greater space for women’s political participation. Affirmative action is often defined as a strategic step for advancement in a more substantial, though not limited to a formal, form of equality and opportunities for particular groups such as women or ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in the key, influential positions in society.


Political Party as the Heart of Women’s Representation in the Legislative Body

Almost all participants of the discussions agreed that reformation at the political party level is a strategic step in increasing women’s political participation. The internal policy of political parties, particularly at the central level, highly influences the position and representation of women in political parties, either as legislative candidates or legislative members. Several findings on the importance of reformation at the political party level as well as its obstacles are mapped as follows:

  • Political parties are considered to be lacking in their commitment to encourage women to enter politics and to be elected in formal political institutions. The management in political parties itself is still dominated by men, and women usually do not hold a strategic position. Women’s participation in the Party’s structure has yet to bring a better change in the involvement and roles of women in the process of decision-making. Nurul Arifin strengthened this statement by recounting her experience as a cadre of Golkar, having been involved as a legislative candidate in two general elections (2004 & 2009). She expressed her concern about the lack of control mechanism for Parties’ internal management which fails to provide a greater opportunity for women to be actively involved in the Party’s management.

  • The lack of women’s representation in the management of political parties affects the Parties’ policies, particularly in the implementation of the Election Law which regulates 30% quota for women. Therefore, there should be an effort to push for the provision of a law or other policy which regulates the implementation of 30% quota in the management of the Party. In addition, according to Olin Montero, the findings of a 2004 research found that 90% of the Party’s executive officials do not fully understand the vision and mission of their parties. This means that the process of political education and the regeneration mechanism within Parties are still very weak.

  • The internal policy of the political party regarding female legislative candidates in particular (and female members in general) is considered to be far from fully supportive and honest. The party has a tendency to support women only as a means to fulfill the quota at the preliminary stage. Afterwards, its support is given to the male members. This is apparent from the fact that the larger ordinal numbers are given to male candidates while female candidates are often assigned to electoral areas where they are not a native or they do not mentor.

  • The political party tends to support only the female legislative candidates they view as potential, without any transparency in such categorization. It should be further elaborated whether the categorization of a cadre’s potential to be selected as a legislative candidate only applies for women or for men as well.

  • However, the political party itself often complains about the difficulties of finding quality female cadres. This is made worse with the fact that female regeneration within the party is very limited. Masruchah from KPI opined that each party should have an ample regeneration system to ‘produce’ women who are qualified and ready to be involved in politics – both within the party and the legislative body. The first step could be started from the branch level, by opening a wider space for women’s involvement in the management. It is hoped that with a greater involvement of women within the party’s internal body, it will no longer find challenges in fulfilling the 30% quota in the legislative candidacy.


Lack of Performance from the 2009 General Election Commission

In regards to the preparedness of the 2009 Election, a number of the Delphi Panel participants highlighted the weak performance of the General Election Commission (KPU) compared to its performance in the previous 2004 Election. Yuda Irlang stated that some findings at the field found that gaining the legislative candidate form is difficult. In addition, the zipper system which is expected to increase women’s opportunity and electability has yet to be correctly implemented by the political party. In addition, the Zipper system which is expected to provide a larger opportunity for women to be elected has not been fully implemented by the Party. Women are often placed in larger ordinal number to the power of 3, i.e. 3, 6, 9, and so on. In many cases, men are often allocated the 1-3 electoral numbers while women are allocated to the big numbers. What is worse is that almost all female candidates did not know their electoral numbers at the time the party submitted the legislative candidate list, thus it is only when KPU announced the fixed candidate list that they were exposed to their electoral numbers. In addition, parties are also believed to have no clear conditions and criteria in the assignment of strategic electoral numbers to the legislative candidates.


KPU is also criticized for yet to give its maximum efforts in disseminating information of the regulation of the election. The voting ballots which do not include the photographs of the legislative candidates are also believed to make it more difficult for voters to understand the legislative candidate they would choose. Not to mention the regulation for voting which can be carried out in two ways, namely jabbing and checking, strengthening the speculations of opportunities of fraud in the vote counts later on.


The Plus and Minus of the Election Law and the 30% Quota Policy

Another point that came up in the discussion was the evaluation of the recent Election Law (No. 10/2008) policy and the minimum 30% quota policy for women. The advantages include the increase – although slight – of female members in the legislative body, from 1999-2004 (prior to the implementation of quota) until 2004-2009 (after the implementation). More or less, it does give an opportunity for women to be involved in the formal political institutions, both at the party and the legislative body. Ideally, this involvement is expected to create change at the policies and budget to be more pro-women.


The disadvantage, however, is the fact that the implementation of the quota does not automatically increase the number of women entering politics. Due to the limited quantity, there are also very limited opportunity and ability to deliver opinions and participate actively in making policies and budget be more pro-women. The government seems to be less serious in giving real opportunities for women. This condition is apparent from the lack of sanctions for parties that violate the Election Law. It is clear that women are only used as a tool for the interests of the party, to make it seem that they support the female candidates, when in fact they do not. Effectiveness is hard to reach as long as KPU continues to tolerate the internal policies of political parties. The Election Law and Political Party Law should run in synergy in order to fully support the involvement and voices of women, because the effectiveness of the implementation and result of the Election Law depend on the party’s internal policies. It should also be noted that each party has its own internal policies.


Strategies for Women to be Selected in the 2009 Legislative Election

Considering various supporting factors and obstacles for female legislative candidates to gain seats in the parliament, the participants of the Delphi Panel predicted that there will be three ways for women to enter the legislation:

  • According to the law which regulates that at least one female candidate should be placed within the top three electoral numbers. This means that the electability of a legislator is based on his/her electoral number.
  • Through the majority votes – although this does not comply with the Election Law. Ironically, KPU itself is not firm in deciding the electing mechanism of the candidates, and instead leaves the decision to the Party to decide their own way. Currently, 3 main parties namely the Golkar Party, Democrat Party, and PAN have decided their elected legislators based on the majority votes. As a result, although these parties have allocated the 30% quota for female candidates according to the zipper system and within the required electoral numbers, it does not automatically ensure that women have a bigger chance of being elected.
  • Ery Seda encouraged the participants to learn from the 2004 election, where there was a slight decrease in the number of female representation in the 1992 election (12%) to 9% in the 1999 Election. The 30% quota for women implemented in the 2004 Election did succeed to boost women’s representation rate to 11%, but it should be acknowledged that this percentage is still below the 1992 election where the 30% quota for women had not been implemented. It was suggested that independent candidates could be an alternative solution to accommodate women to enter the parliament without having to go through the more patriarchal path of the Political Party.


Women’s Representation in Formal Political Institutions in Influencing More Gender-Responsive Policies and Budget

Currently, the hope that women’s representation in formal political institutions will be able to influence more gender-responsive policies is still far from realization. Wahyu from LSI attempted to explain why the representation of women in the legislation does not automatically voice the needs and interests of women. After all, every legislative candidate fighting for a seat in the Election would bring the interests and agenda of his/her Party. Thus, a chosen female legislator would be placed in a difficult position in deciding whose interests she must fight for: her party, her constituents, or women. In reality, the party’s interests are more dominantly voiced, considering that it is the Party which enabled them to enter the parliament. The question is, is it possible to fight for women’s interests if the Party itself has not acknowledged gender-mainstreaming and does not support women’s needs and the fight for their problems?


The Phenomenon of Female Activists Becoming Legislative Candidates

An interesting debate occurred regarding the increase of female activists who decided to run for candidacy in the legislation. A number of participants voiced their doubts that the involvement of female candidates would not bring much impact, as their opportunities to be elected are slim. This is particularly due to the fact that these female activists had not been involved from the beginning, and did not participate in building the constituents, hence practically owning no mass supporters.


Recommendations for WRI’s Research

  • It is imperative to conduct a study of the 30% quota policy, comparing the New Order period –which did not implement the affirmative action policy– and the reformation era, particularly in the decentralization context. Has the Election’s and Party’s policy provided a bigger space for women to be involved in formal political institutions, particularly at the legislative, both at the national and local levels?
  • It is important to observe how Parties perceive the 30% quota policy. Do they also understand the necessity of women’s involvement in politics, both within the Party and the formal political institutions? In addition, it is as essential to study the Party’s internal regulations such as the vision and mission, Articles of Association, Rules of Association, programs, and other policies to analyze whether they have included the perspective of gender. In addition, what are the efforts the Party have carried out to implement the 30% quota in the legislative candidacy?
  • It is essential to discover the comprehension of female candidates on women’s urgent issues, needs, and interests. What were the strategies the female candidates employed to win the Election, what were the programs they offered, what campaign strategies did they choose? It is necessary to understand the obstacles that female candidates face in securing a legislative seat – from aspects such as social, cultural, Election system, as well as internal reasons.
  • It is important to observe the constituents’ opinions about women being in formal political institutions. How do the constituents view women’s presence in formal political institutions? Are there different behaviors and considerations between female and male voters, and what are the influencing factors?
  • It is imperative to dig the background and motives behind the phenomenon of the increase of female activists-turned-candidates during the 2009 Election. Does the involvement of female activists in politics indicates the strengthening of women’s movement? What are the obstacles faced by female activists running for candidacy?
  • The selection of research locations is considered adequately representative. The research regions are chosen based on the factor of women in the region’s leadership, both at the executive and legislative levels. It is particularly interesting to see the rise of local parties in Banda Aceh City, in order to see how these local parties accommodate women’s issues.***