, February 17, 2009 4:02 AM 

House seats for women could decline
Adianto P. Simamora ,  The Jakarta Post ,  JAKARTA   |  Mon, 02/16/2009 8:58 AM 
 |  Headlines 

Female legislative candidates and activists remain pessimistic that their 
representation at the House of Representatives could drop drastically. 

The concern stems from the fact that the state seems unwilling to guarantee an 
increase in House seats for women, while, political parties have been stripped 
of any internal mechanism to ensure more female legislators represent them, 
politicians say.

The Constitutional Court's ruling to scrap Article 214 of the 2008 Legislative 
Elections Law - which allowed parties to determine their representatives in 
legislative bodies based on a hierarchical system of seat distribution, rather 
than giving seats to candidates who win the most votes - has been deemed a huge 
blow for female candidates.

Political parties are now afraid that making an internal ruling to allocate 
women one of every three seats could violate the law.

Ratna Batara Munti, a legislative candidate from the Indonesian Democratic 
Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said the number of women at the next House could 
fall far below the 11 percent attained in the last elections in 2004.

"The political gender gap remains wide. It has worsened because no party has 
set an internal policy to ensure women get 30 percent of House seats," she told 
The Jakarta Post.

"Unfortunately, the government has no political will to give women more chances 
at the House," said Ratna, a former women's activist now contesting the East 
Java VII electoral district that comprises Pacitan, Ponogoro, Trenggalek, 
Magetan and Ngawi.

Legislative elections will be held on April 9, with more than 12,000 candidates 
vying for 560 House seats.

The total is an increase from the current 550 seats, 11 percent of which are 
occupied by women.

The highest occurrence of women at the House was during the 1987-1992 period, 
when women occupied 13 percent or 65 seats, before dipping to 9 percent in the 
1999-2004 period.

Golkar, the country's largest party, said it could not make a special exception 
for women, for fear of violating the law.

"Golkar has a policy of giving a seat to a female candidate, if a female and 
male candidate win the same number of votes. It is our way of respecting 
women," said Golkar member Firman Soebagyo.

"But we can't go as far as awarding one seat for women out of every three seats 
won in electoral districts. That violates the law."

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has given up on efforts to issue a 
ruling requiring parties to award women 30 percent of their House seats, after 
its request for a government regulation-in-lieu-of law (perppu) was rejected. 



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