Jakarta, 30 April — Women have challenged Indonesiaâ€™s patriarchal political system with female candidates winning all seats in the province of West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo in a regional election. According to early results, Maria Goreti, Sri Kadarwati Aswin, Erma Suryani Ranik and Hairiah won all seats in a clean sweep for the regional representative council (DPD).
The body brings together representative from each province and has the right to make proposals, submit opinions on legislative matters and monitor implementation of laws.
The election for the DPD was held on 9 April, together with those for the national parliament and provincial assemblies.
Final results are expected soon but the four women in West Kalimantan appear certain to win.
In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), one of the winning candidates, 41-year-old Hairiah, 41, said that the women owed their success to increasing political awareness among women in West Kalimantan.
â€œThere are many organisations concerned about political education and women empowerment. They operate at the grassroots level, spreading information continuously,â€ said Hairiah, who like most Indonesians uses only one name.
Asked whom she thinks voted for her, Hairiah, a lawyer, said that â€œmost probably the votes came from the people I helped and from the organisations I have worked with.â€
Before entering politics, Hairiah worked for almost two decades for the local branch of the Human Rights Commission and for legal bodies that provide representation to women and migrant workers who are victims of violence.
Female success in West Kalimantan is in stark contrast with the bleak picture for women at national level.
During the legislative period of 2004-2009, only 11.8 percent of the 488 parliamentarians were women.
Early estimates of the April election indicate that this percentage may have decreased considerably.
Activists blame the December ruling by the Constitutional Court that abolished party rankings and enforced a first-past the post system enabling those with the most votes to be elected.
Women are also poorly represented in the leadership of the 38 political parties that contested the election and in the current government.
However, Indonesia, the country with the worldâ€™s largest Muslim population, has had a female president in Megawati Sukarnoputri who ran the country from 2001 to 2004.