Line-up of female candidates a cosmetic move?

Line-up of female candidates a cosmetic move?
Labour activist Rieke Diah Pitaloka of Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).

A sexy 25-year old model running for a national parliamentary seat and a 24-year-old former flight stewardess-cum-beauty pageant contestant running for a local assembly seat in Aceh are among the slate of female candidates for the elections on April 9.

Their parties are banking on their celebrity status and good looks to get votes, never mind that they have no political experience.

The selection of such female candidates has raised questions about whether a requirement for women to make up three out of 10 candidates, introduced in 2012 in time for these elections, is turning out to be a cosmetic move.

Parties are resorting to recruiting celebrities and politicians' wives and relatives to meet the quota, regardless of qualifications.

In 2001, Indonesia became the first South-east Asian nation to elect a woman, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, as president.

Since then, other female politicians have emerged as role models, such as labour activist Rieke Diah Pitaloka of Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), Ms Nurhayati Ali Assegaf of the ruling Democratic Party and Ms Nurul Arifin of Golkar. Yet mindsets towards women in political office have yet to change.

Some noted that female politicians are also vulnerable to graft, such as jailed former beauty queen Angelina Sondakh of Democratic Party and arrested former Banten governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah from Golkar. In the current Parliament, only 18 per cent of 500 MPs are women, though that is up from 9 per cent in 1999.

"The political scene is still male-dominated and parties are not serious about having good female politicians," Ms Natalia Warat, a programme officer at the Asia Foundation, told The Straits Times. In the 2009 election, 42 per cent of women elected were heiresses of political dynasties, she noted, citing findings by the University of Indonesia's Centre for Political Studies.

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