Female candidates rush to learn campaign strategies

Female candidates running for next year’s legislative election are feeling the pressure to learn the ropes of campaigning fast, while fighting the stigma that their presence in parties’ candidate lists are mere formalities.

All 12 parties contesting the 2014 general election have fulfilled the 30-percent-quota for female legislative candidates, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU). But as parties have complained about the difficulty in finding high quality female candidates to reach the quota, many still view female candidates as unworthy contenders, Democratic Party legislative candidate Umi Farida said.

Umi, 35, a former NGO worker whose work focuses on women, labor and minority rights, is a first time candidate for the House of Representatives, contesting in the Central Kalimantan electoral district (dapil).

Following the Constitutional Court ruling early this year that upheld the 30 percent quota requirement for women, party leaders, such as United Development Party chairman (PPP) and Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali complained about the difficulties in reaching the quota. Syarif from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party also commented that while the party can guarantee quantity, it could not guarantee the quality of many first time female candidates.

Female candidates say that many of their male counterparts have more experience and are more confident in campaigning, while the women still need support in campaign strategies.

The Democratic Party, in collaboration with the University of Indonesia, supported its female candidates by holding a course for them, Umi said. She said the program introduced female candidates to strategies such as mapping out voters and issues specific to voter’s needs; as well as fund raising and campaign budgeting.

Binny Buchori, a Golkar candidate focusing on universal health care access, said her party also had training for female candidates. Golkar focuses on legislation processes and development issues such as the Millenium Development Goals. Binny will run in the East Java VII electoral district, covering Ponorogo, Pacitan, Trenggalek and Tulungagung.

Meanwhile, Tunggal Pawestri, an activist running for the Yogyakarta Council with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said female candidates had discussed the need for specific training that covered constituent outreach and voter targets.

“Male candidates may be more familiar with election strategies, but women need training,” she said. For example, they need to know how many votes are needed to win a seat based on the number of voters in an electoral district. For example in her electoral district in Kulonprogo, Tunggul would need at least 25,000 votes to secure a seat in the Yogyakarta Council.

Nihayatul Wafiroh, 33, from the National Awakening Party (PKB), who will run in East Java III — Situbondo, Bondowoso, Banyuwangi — said that some very qualified women had been assigned the numbers one to three on the candidate list. She was listed as number two, which matches the PKB’s number on the party list. Despite an open-proportional system, which means those who win the most votes will enter regardless of the rank, Nihayatul said the top numbers still had a psychological effect on voters.

“Many of the voters are still party-oriented and not figure-oriented, so they would choose the top numbers on the list,” she said.

Similarly, Tunggal is listed as number four on the list, the same as the PDI-P, which she hopes would help her campaign. Umi from the Democratic Party meanwhile is at the bottom of the list due to it being her first time.

An anonymous source running for the House, from one of the winning parties in the 2009 election, said that competition is rife between candidates from other parties and within the parties themselves. Back-door deals between candidates, in which underdog candidates are asked to donate their won votes, occur often.

“So women just fill the quota and are not considered ‘real contestants’ in the race, and other candidates will ask them to give their votes to them,” the source said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, May 14 2013, 11:32 AM

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