Women’s strenuous path as election administrators

Titi Anggraini
Titi Anggraini, Facilitator of Perludem and Doctoral Student of the UI Faculty of Law

IO – Indonesia was ranked 101st out of 156 in March 2021’s Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum. Its score only reached 0.688 for the gender gap and scored only 0.164 in 94th rank for political empowerment. 

The data seems quite a contrast to the percentage of women in Indonesia’s electoral practice. During the 2019 Presidential Election, women’s votes reached 96,572,045 or equivalent to 50.07 percent of total voters. More than half of the total were existing voters. Moreover, 51.43 percent of the total voters were women. Women went to vote more than men. 

However, women’s electoral numbers in the parliament have stagnated since 2009; in fact, they are much lower than the minimum allotted figure for women of at least 30 percent. The 2019 Election could only escort 118 (around 20.52 percent) women to the honorable seats of the House of Representatives (DPR). The number was and has always been smaller in Regional Legislative Councils (DPRD). 

The gap between the loyalty in participating and substantial political involvement fostered electoral practitioners in both domestic and international communities to promote and find ways to create integrated gender equality. Ensuring women’s representatives in election organizers is solid proof of women’s representation and a more inclusive election. 

Women’s involvement in electoral organizers is not only essential in providing different perspectives, adding numbers, experience and needs, but is also considered economical (Sarah Bibler, 2014). The election organizer is not a business institution; even though it involves a fantastic amount of money, it owes responsibilities to the public to manage and expend funds as effectively and efficiently as possible. Involving women as election organizers will help reach that aim; budget management will be carried out more inclusively (Michelle Bachelet, 2014). 

Women’s presence in election organizers represents a larger cause and a more positive impact: the public’s trust and recognition of women’s significant roles in the state and its political life. 

Constitutional Commitment 

Indonesia maintains a constitutional commitment for a more inclusive gender-equal statesmanship, as written in Article No 28H of the 1945 Indonesian Constitution: “Every person shall have the right to receive facilitation and special treatment to have the same opportunity and benefit in order to achieve equality and fairness.” The state wishes to ensure no one or no group of people is eliminated or marginalized from their statesmanship. The above article was later implied further in Law no 7 of 2017, Article no 10, paragraph 7, and Article no 92, paragraph 11 concerning the General Elections, stating that KPU and Bawaslu take note of the composition, with at least 30 percent of women. 

The phrase “take note” implies a firm message that women’s involvement in KPU and Bawaslu memberships should be prioritized, and it cannot mean otherwise: to only allow women to become members of both institutions with only less than 30 percent. To “take note” is often interpreted as just allowing women to take part at a minimum level. This thought needs to be aligned back to commitment and constitutional awareness. 

The selection process of KPU and Bawaslu members of 2022-2027, which has endured since October 2021, must include women’s inclusive involvement, as proposed by many parties and elements of society. In mid-January 2022, the President sent the House of Representatives a list of 14 and 10 names of KPU and Bawaslu members for a ft and proper test by Commission II of the DPR. Out of the 24 names, four names proposed for KPU were women, with three other names for Bawaslu. 

The participants went through a very strict membership screening process. It engaged various elements: public and government institutions while considering much: capacity, integrity, and the ability to suggest innovation for the complicated 2024 Electoral Organizer. Bawaslu and KPU’s system of recruitment has been well perceived globally, based on several categories: number of registrants, competitiveness and selection comprehensiveness. 

Unfortunately, the fit and proper test from the DPR has been considered a strong disserving stigma; it is often considered a political process that fails to comply with the aspects of women’s representation. Since implementing the ft and proper test in 2007, only the 2009 Election represented 30 percent of women in KPU and Bawaslu. There were three women out of seven members of the KPU (42.86 percent) and in Bawaslu, three out five members were women (60 percent). 

This success story, when women occupied 30 percent of KPU and Bawaslu, was then held up as a selection mode package. Every member of Commission II was asked to list down 7 and 5 names for membership selection, with a minimum of 30 percent being women. The selection package had allowed women to be selected as organizers, at a minimum of 30 percent. 

Entrapment of the Word “At least” 

Following that period, KPU and Bawaslu memberships have always contained “at least” only one woman in all three Election periods: 2014, 2019 and towards the 2024 Election. Betty Epsilon Idroos and Lolly Suhenty were the only members selected for each KPU and Bawaslu after the Commission II of the House of Representatives meeting last February 17. 

The DPR tenaciously decided to only select one member for each organization, despite the direct aspiration conveyed by the women’s movement, election observers, universities, mass organizations to religious leaders during the public hearing of DPR Commission II on February 10, 2022. Women’s representation is held back, with only one member. The decision is quite an anomaly, since KPU and Bawaslu members’ selection only involves a few and certain DPR elites with a better paradigm and more sensible political inclusiveness than most common people. 

Thus, why is it so difficult to allow more than one woman to run in KPU and Bawaslu? The answer is quite simple: lack of political commitment and support, pragmatic and non-inclusive political rationality, and the absence of a gender-fair perspective among policymakers. Holding on to such conditions will be detrimental to our democracy and the credibility of our election organizers, especially when Indonesia’s democracy is performing poorly (International IDEA, 2021). 

Democracy with poor performance is partly due to numerous variables of politics and narrowing space of women’s representation, a phenomenon which happens in every election. Political parties’ leaders must seriously propose their representatives in Commission II to contribute positively to women’s representation. 

Ironically, with strong currents of public demands, practical and substantive arguments for women’s involvement in election administrators for better democracy and stronger integrity, DPR disregarded the rule of women’s minimum representation. The majority of political parties still refuse to provide political education or enforce rules in applying inclusive paradigm. Elections and Indonesian democracy must be managed in a civilized manner, based on a principle of fairness and gender equality. 

The results of the ft and proper test conducted by Commission II of the DPR proved that the women’s presence in organizing elections still faces a long and steep road. We must not lose our hope and patience. As women, we need to guard and speak out loud to be stronger, have a better portion in election administrators and not be marginalized. 

At least keeping our eyes on women’s participation as KPU and Bawaslu members in provinces and regencies will wind up in irony. Democracy without women’s involvement is a harmful deficit.