Election System and Women Representation in Parliament

The Executive Director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), Titi Anggraini, says that election system design is heavily correlated with the rate of parliamentary representation for women. There are at least four variables in election system that could affect the rate of women representation in parliament: the 30 percent gender quota in the candidates’ roll, voting method, district magnitude, and votes conversion method.

In the Law No.7/2017, the word “women” is mentioned nineteen times, specifically in the section on the establishment of election management body, political party verification procedure, and candidacy.

“There is a provision in the Law No.7/2017 that mandates the election management body (EMB) to balance the gender proportion within their organization. And in regards with candidacy, political party must obey the 30 percent gender quota for women in the candidates’ list,” says Titi.

Votes Conversion Method

The 2019 National Elections will use open-list proportional system, similar to the previous 2009 and 2014 National Elections. With this system, female candidates are able to introduce themselves and their programs to their constituents more freely and effectively. Open list system is also providing female candidates with real political competition experience compared to other election system.

“The main challenge for female candidates is money politics. There’s also resistance from within the party organization. But, clearly these challenges shouldn’t stop female candidates from participating in the elections,” says Titi.

The 30 Percent Gender Quota

Article 245 of the Law No.7/2017 states that political party shall include female candidates in their candidates roll at least 30 percent of the total candidates. Furthermore, in Article 246, it is stated that there must at least be one female candidate for every three proposed candidates by every political party (semi-zipper system)–and the female candidates must be placed as the number 1 and/or number 2 and/or number 3 in the roll.

Article 252 paragraph (6) and Article 257 paragraph (2) state that the Election Commission (KPU) in every region shall publish the percentage of female candidate in party’s candidates roll on the national newspaper and on electronic media.

Candidacy method

In Article 241, it is stated that political party shall conduct selection process for would-be candidates in a democratic and inclusive manner in accordance with the party’s statute. However, unfortunately, the article does not specify the criteria of a democratic selection process.

“How do we define a democratic selection process? What are the indicators?” Titi says.

Titi explains that the rate of women representation in parliament is heavily influenced by the supply of female politicians in a party.

“If a political party is really committed in increasing women representation in parliament, they would have recruited more female cadres and proposed them as the prioritized candidates,” says Titi.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Political Study and Research (Puskapol) of the University of Indonesia on the election result of the 2009 and 2014 Elections, the majority of elected candidates are the candidates placed as number one candidate in the candidates roll by the political party.

District Magnitude and Votes Conversion Method

For the first time ever, Indonesia will use the Pure Saint-Lague method to allocate parliamentary seats to parties. With this method, the result of seats allocation (or votes conversion) will be a little different.

For example, in the 2014 Elections, with Hare Quota method, the seats allocation for political parties participating in the election is as follows: NasDem Party 36 seats; Nation Awakening Party (PKB) 47 seats; Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) 40 seats; Indonesia Democracy Party-Struggle (PDI-P) 109 seats; Golkar Party 91 seats; Grand Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) 73 seats; Democrat Party 61 seats; National Mandate Party (PAN) 48 seats; Unity and Development Party (PPP) 39 seats; and People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) 16 seats.

Meanwhile, if Pure Saint-Lague method was used, the result would be: NasDem 33 seats; PKB 48; PKS 39; PDI-P 110; Golkar 94; Gerindra 73; Demokrat 61; PAN 47; PPP 39; Hanura 16.

As we can see, the seats allocation is slightly different. PKB, PDI-P, and Golkar receive more seats, while NasDem and PKS receive less seats.

With this method, political party will have to start from the beginning to help their female candidates to win seats in parliament.

In 2019 Elections, there will be more seats compared to the previous election. In Jambi there is 1 additional seat, in Riau Island one seat, in Lampung two seats, in West Nusa Tenggara one seat, in West Kalimantan two seats, in North Kalimantan three seats, in Southeast Sulawesi one seat, in West Sulawesi one seat, and in Central Sulawesi one seat. These additional seats should be utilized to increase women representation rate in the parliament.

What Can Women do?

Titi explains that there are at least three strategies that can be implemented by female candidates to win the election. First, female candidate must understand all the rules of the game, set plausible targets, and set work priority. Female candidates should also understand that communication strategy is an important aspect that could help them win a seat in parliament.

“Female candidates should implement effective communication strategy during campaign. They should establish strong relationship and communication with various stakeholders without having to compromise their independence and impartiality,” says Titi.

Second, establish good relationship with the election management bodies (EMBs). Female candidates should understand that EMB commissioners are their partners, not competitors.

Third, female candidates should be able to map significant problems based on past experience. They need to propose recommendations of improvements.