DAP lawmaker moots 30pc quota for women in politics as Malaysia trails Indonesia’s democracy

DAP’s Chong Eng has proposed the federal government establish a 30pc quota for women’s participation in politics. — Picture by Choo Choy May
DAP’s Chong Eng has proposed the federal government establish a 30pc quota for women’s participation in politics. — Picture by Choo Choy May

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 31 — Alarmed that Indonesia has overtaken Malaysia in democratic practices, DAP’s Chong Eng today proposed the federal government establish a 30pc quota for women’s participation in politics.

The Penang state lawmaker pointed out that Indonesia has achieved a milestone with the appointment of eight women ministers in President Joko Widowi’s 34-person Cabinet while Malaysia is far behind at both the executive and legislative level.

“If we in Malaysia wish to catch up with Indonesia and other maturing democracies, we should commit to increasing women’s political representation through concrete actions,” she told a news conference here.

She compared the 2014 Indonesian elections with the Malaysian elections last year where the number of women candidates in Indonesia was 37 per cent (2,467 of 6,619 candidates) while in Malaysia, only 10.7 per cent (56 of 523 candidates) of the parliamentary candidates are women.

“Why has Indonesia overtaken us so drastically? Why is women’s political representation in Indonesia on the increase while in Malaysia it has remained stagnant?” the Padang Lalang assemblywoman said.

Chong suggests that this could be due to Indonesia’s electoral reforms especially with its 30 per cent women’s quota and proportional representation system.

She said the DAP will propose in Parliament for all political parties to have a 30 per cent quota of women candidates in future elections at both state and federal levels, adding that she has spoken to DAP MPs Steven Sim and Kasthuriraani Patto to raise the idea in their speeches.

She also wanted the Election Commission to seriously consider reforming the nation’s existing electoral system to a proportional representation system, similar to Indonesia.

The Penang state executive councillor for youth and sports, women, family and community development said it was time Putrajaya tabled amendments to the Elections Act to adopt a 30 per cent women candidate quota for all political parties.

With more women representation in government, there will also be better understanding of certain issues such as the recent uproar over child marriages, she added.

“We should not even have an MP who would defend child marriages because we are talking about children’s rights,” she said, alluding to Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahya.

The Umno federal lawmaker had defended child marriages in Parliament this week, arguing that it is to prevent “unforeseen circumstances”.

Chong, who is also Penang Women’s Development Corporation chairman reminded Putrajaya that Malaysia’s record on women participation was worsening, pointing to the recently released World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 in which the nation ranked 132 out of 142 countries worldwide.

“Malaysia’s index ranking is embarrassing and the second worst in Asean before Brunei which ranks 142 while Indonesia is far ahead at 86,” she said.

Indonesia first introduced the 30 per cent women’s quota in Article 65(1) of the Electoral Law 12/2003 which stipulates that each political party participating in the election should have a minimum of 30 per cent women in each region for the national, provincial and district-level legislators in their lists of electoral candidates.

The Indonesian law was later amended to stipulate that at least one in every three candidates on a political party’s list must be a woman and recently, political parties that do not fulfil this quota was barred from contesting.

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