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Could Puan be Indonesia’s Second Female President?

The name Puan Maharani has recently begun to be discussed as a presidential candidate for 2024. Her appearance is classified as different considering that the presidential candidate market is more often dominated by men. However, can she be considered as a representative of women?

By Harishmawan Heryadi


Although it is relatively early, it seems that many people have started thinking about the presidential candidate market for the 2024 presidential election. Recently, one of the hot topics being discussed is the name of the Chairman of the DPR RI, Puan Maharani.

Not without reason, her name has recently become the subject of conversation. In several reports, Puan’s name has become a comparison for other PDIP cadres, namely the Governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo. Some parties consider that there is competition between the two to become candidates for the bull party(PDI-P).

Apart from the competition, the emergence of Puan’s name as a candidate being discussed is quite interesting. One aspect that can be used to discuss the former Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture is his position as a woman.

As we know, over the last few years, the presidential candidate market has become a very masculine realm. Let alone competing, the names of female candidates are rarely discussed as strong candidates in various exchanges.

The appearance of the name of the chairman of the DPR may be a refresher from the long male-dominated contestation. Even so, maybe his strength as a representative of women needs to be re-measured. Such as how will Puan be seen as a prospective candidate for women?

Longing for a Female Presidential Candidate

For years, many parties have hoped that there will be quality female candidates in this country’s presidential election. Not without reason, many political agendas may be difficult to touch if only viewed from the side of the Adam(men).

Therefore, the inclusion of the name Puan or many female figures in the presidential candidate exchange can certainly give hope for this condition.

Indeed, narratives about the women’s economy have been included in the campaigns of candidates in the presidential election several times. Promises about the price of basic commodities for women may be discussed quite often in the five-year agenda.

However, many other crucial agendas seem to have escaped the discussion of male presidential candidates. If you want to be pragmatic, this issue can be discussed to win the voice of women.

The main agenda, for now, is of course the issue of the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (RUU PKS). So far, the public can’t seem to get enough hope from male politicians. 

Unfortunately, female candidates may take a steeper path if they want to compete in an event like the presidential election. Let alone achieving an important agenda like the one above, in many cases, female candidates have often been marginalized because of their own identity. 

This is described for example by Johanna Dunaway and colleagues in Traits versus Issues: How Female Candidates Shape Coverage of Senate and Gubernatorial Races. They said that it was often difficult for female candidates to show their qualifications. His personal affairs often lower exposure to the candidate’s qualifications. 

Indeed, over time society, in general, is more open to female candidates. However, in terms of engagement or political attachment, female candidates tend to not always excel. 

Lonna Rae Atkeson described it not because of sociological issues, but because of politics. He highlighted that increasing engagement requires competitive female candidates. 

Actors Around Girls

If you pay attention, this competitive case may be one of the reasons it is difficult to have a female presidential candidate who represents women. Indeed, at the Pilkada or Pileg level, the competitive side of women can be seen from their electability. 

Even so, many of the candidates are still closely linked to the various political actors around them. Some members of the legislature or regional heads can compete because they are supported by the machines and agendas of their parties. 

In addition, some others can be chosen because they are still supported by men around them such as husbands or fathers. To a certain extent, a candidate like this can be considered thick and still relies on the popularity of men.

Then, can a female candidate like this be considered to represent women?

This question may be answered through research by Karen Celis, Sarah Childs, and Jennifer Curtin. They said that the strong representation of women depends on the important actors around them. 

Referring to these conditions, it is difficult to see if such a female candidate is already classified as a strong female representative. To a certain extent, they can be said to still depend on other actors such as parties and male figures.

This condition often makes many female candidates do not fully represent women. There are cases, for example, where female candidates only become political extensions of male dynasties. 

If this is the case, of course, female candidates cannot represent women’s agendas. Then how can we see Puan as a potential female presidential candidate in 2024? 

Women Representatives vs Party Representatives

For now, it is still quite difficult for the public to see whether Puan can become a female presidential candidate who represents women. Indeed, one of these difficulties occurred because there was no official statement that he would become a presidential candidate and carry a certain agenda.

Apart from that, from his own work, the public may still be hesitant to place himself as a candidate who truly represents women in the future. This condition can be illustrated by his recent steps as chairman of the DPR. 

Puan is indeed quite welcomed as the country’s first female DPR speaker. However, in 2020, his name was discussed when asked to make the PKS Bill a Priority Prolegnas. 

This will be a lengthy discussion considering that several controversial bills, such as the Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the revision of the Constitutional Court Law, were ratified first.

Indeed, in March 2021, this bill has been included in the Priority Prolegnas. However, of course, some people have already remembered how the controversial Omnibus Law became more important than the PKS Bill in the era of Puan as Chair of the DPR. 

Apart from that, Puan’s potential as a female presidential candidate who represents women can also be seen from the statements of Celis, Childs, and Curtin above. Perhaps, Puan is still quite related to other political actors around her.

In this context, the public may think that Puan still has the potential to represent her party, namely PDIP. The community, for example, could highlight the issue of competition with Ganjar. Ganjar in terms of electability far surpassed Puan in various surveys. 

In particular, Puan’s potential as a female presidential candidate is quite dim compared to other candidates. In the Grassroots Strategic Consulting (ASRC) survey, it was revealed that former Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti was the most popular female presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Puan’s name is in fifth place under Social Minister Tri Rismaharini, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani.

From these conditions, it can be seen that the competitive side that Atkeson mentioned above is still not visible in Puan. Perhaps, this stems from a figure like Susi who tends to be judged as having a popular performance in the eyes of the public. 

Despite these conditions, Puan herself is not powerless. He may have the privilege of being a cadre of the biggest party today. Not just a cadre, she is the daughter of the general chairman of the party. 

This left him with enough ammunition to compete. However, again, this privilege may make the public more likely to judge her as a party representative rather than a female representative. Moreover, if he is finally able to replace Ganjar or a fellow woman in his party, namely Risma.

Of course, this is all just speculation. After all, the presidential election itself is still quite long. We’ll see whether Puan will be able to become a presidential candidate who represents the full women’s agenda or not.


Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of PinterPolitik.


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