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Elections in Indonesia and Women’s Representation in India


Elections in Indonesia and Women’s Representation in India

A Primer on the Indonesian Elections

In a rematch of the 2014 elections, Indonesia’s incumbent president Joko Widodo is running neck and neck with challenger Prabowo Subianto. The elections are expected to be held on 17 April. This is the fifth election since the country embraced democracy in 1999 but many have observed a level of backsliding of Indonesian democracy.

These elections are significant for several reasons. For example, this will be the first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections in the country. Indonesia holds significant strategic importance as it is the world’s third-largest electoral democracy (after India and the US) and is the largest and most economically advanced in South East Asia.

Large amounts of money are being spent on campaigning and pre-election disbursements, fake news has been spreading like wildfire and fear of cyber-attacks are abound. These indicate the level of competition between the two candidates but also mirrors trends in other elections around the world.

In addition to the backsliding of democracy, a further concern is the decline of secularism in the state.  A sign of this is religion playing a central in this campaign as both candidates are taking to woo conservative Muslim voters.

Indian Elections: Women Take the Lead

With the Indian general elections approaching, political parties are announcing their candidates for election to the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament. Much like in the US, there may be a historically high number of women who stand for elections.

While there is no fixed reservation of seats for women in India’s parliament yet, some regional parties have instituted a quota system for women within the party. For example, the Trinimool Congress which has its strength in West Bengal has committed to fielding 41 per cent women candidates and the Biju Janata Dal of Orissa has pledged to field 30 per cent women.

The Women’s Reservation Bill which proposes a one-third reservation of seats of women was introduced in Parliament in 1996 but has not seen significant movement into it becoming a law.

There is a marked increase in women representation in legislatures. The Pew Research Centre suggests that currently, women occupy 24 per cent of representation in legislatures around the world, compared to 18 per cent in 2008.

Currently, only 12.6 per cent of the Indian lower house is represented by women. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India ranks 149 out of 193 states. 

Image Credit: Joko Widodo/ Wikimedia Commons

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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