Eurasia Review: Indonesian Presidential Election: The Gender Factor And Implications For Women – Analysis

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The exit polls showed that Jokowi and Maruf Amin won the women’s vote for the presidential election. How did they win the women’s vote against Prabowo and Sandiaga Uno and what can women expect in Jokowi’s second term?

By Made Ayu Mariska*

In the 2019 Indonesian presidential election, there were more female voters than male voters. There were 93 million women registered for the election, making up 50.2% of total voters. Both pair of presidential candidates were competing to win the vote by tackling gender issues in their campaign, especially issues facing women in particular. 

The exit poll by Indikator Politik 
showed that 55 percent of the women voters voted for Jokowi-Maruf Amin.
What are the implications of their victory for women? What more can be
done for women by President Joko Widodo (‘Jokowi’) in his second term?

Jokowi-Maruf Amin Incumbency

As the incumbent, Jokowi (the moniker for Joko Widodo) had the
advantage to show what he had done during his presidency. Compared to
the previous presidents, Jokowi had the highest number of women
ministers, eight out of 34. Some of the women ministers shone brightly
during his presidency, namely Susi Pudjiastuti (the Minister of
Fisheries and Maritime Affairs), Sri Mulyani (Minister of Finance), and
Retno Marsudi (Minister of Foreign Affairs).

Jokowi’s incumbency has the highest number of women in parliament, it is
still far from the requirement. Law Number 2 of 2008 concerning
Political Parties and Law Number 10 of 2008 concerning Legislative
Elections contains a policy that requires political parties to include
women’s representation of at least 30%. 

only participate in general elections after fulfilling the
requirements, including at least 30% women’s representation in the
management of central political parties; but so far there are only 17%
of women representatives in the parliament. 

In the
first presidential debate, Jokowi took pride in his cabinet having more
women in the parliament than ever before. Regardless of the effort to
raise the representation of women, the focus should not be simply
fulfilling the numbers, but rather representing Indonesian women

More Can Be Done

This notwithstanding, Jokowi’s administration still has some way to
go in terms of women’s rights. It could be argued that his policy to
support women exists is superficial, without affecting real change for
women at the ground level.

is not reflected in the number of cases of violence against women, for
example. Since 2014 the Women’s National Commission (Komnas Perempuan)
declared Indonesia to be in a ‘state of emergency’ with regard to sexual
violence. According to their reports, the number of reported cases of violence against women in 2018 increased 14% from the year before. 

big issue is that there is a legal vacuum in the protection of women in
Indonesia. The issuance of the draft bill concerning the elimination of
sexual violence (RUU PKS) was a breakthrough solution since Indonesia
has been very slow on the discussion of legal protection for victims of
sexual violence. However, the ratification process of the bill is still
stagnant, waiting to be reviewed by the House of Representatives (DPR).

Beside his
incumbency record, Jokowi-Amin also had their own jargon for their
women supporters during their campaign, ‘Ibu Bangsa’ or ‘mothers of the
nation’. Their campaign team saw women as the mothers of the next
generation. Although at a glance this jargon sounds noble, it is rather
reductive. ‘Ibu Bangsa’ also narrows the role of women in society only
as mothers and illustrated the lack of depth in attention for the core
issues for women.

Jokowi’s Strength or Prabowo’s Weakness?

Jokowi and Maruf Amin’s victory could mean two things; the first one
is that despite the flaws, women voters still believed in Jokowi to give
him a second chance. On the other hand, Jokowi-Maruf Amin’s victory
could also be the result of Prabowo-Sandi’s campaign flaws in addressing
women issues.

among the housewives because of his good appearance and his campaign
style to visit traditional markets, it seemed that Prabowo’s
vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno, was more effective in winning
the women’s vote. He always brought up the issue of prices of daily
necessities and economic empowerment for women, issues that are
effective selling points among housewives. It is a common feature to see
politicians make women the symbol of domestic financial stability in
the political environment. 

In their
campaign, however, Prabowo-Sandi used the term ‘Emak-emak’ to refer to
their female supporters. ‘Emak-emak’ itself is a pejorative term for
middle-aged housewives with lower socioeconomic status; this was
Prabowo’s attempt to reclaim the term and give it a positive connotation
while gaining the support of this demographic. 

housewives and middle-aged women were not the only groups of women who
voted in the election. ‘Emak-emak’ is a weak narrative because it left
out the groups of young female voters, professionals, and other groups
of women. As the result, the ‘emak-emak’ narrative alone was not enough
to carry Prabowo-Sandi to victory; moreover, it was criticised by the
Indonesian Women’s Congress (Kowani) for the reasons mentioned.

The use of
‘The Power of Emak-emak’ jargon also was a narrative that consolidated
the patriarchal norms that already exist, not looking to change the
status-quo. The ‘emak-emak’ narrative does not encourage women to go
beyond their roles at home. 

Go Beyond the Conventional

economic issues sold well, the candidates should have been more aware
that women’s issues do not only revolve around the kitchen and
housekeeping. There are other vitally important areas that women still
have to face in their everyday lives, including sexual abuse, the wage
gap, underage marriage, and domestic violence, which until today are
still the biggest obstacles for Indonesian women.

Jokowi-Amin’s victory allows them to prove their commitment to
advance women’s welfare. Although Jokowi did better than his
predecessors in increasing the number of women’s representation in
parliament, his work is far from the finished. The campaign narratives
had not touched any of the core issues of women.

They only
exploited the women’s vote to cover their lack of depth in promoting
women’s issues. Now is the time for the pair to step up their game from
an attractive catchphrase to something more substantial, such as to pass
the Draft Bill on the Elimination of Sexual Violence Elimination. This
could, at least, be the beginning.

*Made Ayu Mariska is a Research Associate with the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. This is part of a series on the 2019 Indonesian Presidential Election.

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