Jakarta Globe, Sunday April 4, 2009
In a narrow alley in Kali Besar, Central Jakarta, legislative candidate Lena Maryana hands out brochures detailing her vision and mission, as well as the reasons she is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in the April 9 elections.
“Please vote for a candidate who shows genuine concern for people’s welfare and represents public interests,” the 34-year old mother told dozens of Kali Pasir residents, mostly women wearing green headscarves, during a campaign stop last Thursday evening.
“Please don’t accept bribes, including handouts from candidates, because we don’t know where the goods come from,” said Lena, who is running under the Muslim-based United Development Party, or PPP, in the Jakarta II electoral district, which covers Central Jakarta, South Jakarta and overseas voters.
Lena one of the hundreds of women vying for seats in the House of Representatives, or DPR, in next week’s elections, thanks to the election law that requires political parties to allocate at least one-third of their legislative candidate places to women.
The Constitutional Court’s recent ruling that winners of the legislative elections will be determined by the number of valid votes each candidate receives — a first-past-the-post system — now means that female candidates, who are mostly less experienced and poorly funded, will have to push themselves much harder to have a chance at winning.
For example, Lena, who is currently a member of House Commission II, started off Thursday’s campaign with a 10 a.m. stop in Pejompongan, Central Jakarta, followed by an afternoon stint in Petukangan, South Jakarta, before she visited Kali Pasir at around 7:30 p.m.
“I get a lot of mental satisfaction when [the residents] come to understand a bit more about politics and the upcoming elections,” Lena said.
“I’m very happy to share my knowledge with them. I know voter education is very important, especially for working-class people, as their access to the correct information is limited,” Lena told the Jakarta Globe.
She said she wanted to convince people, especially people on low incomes, that casting their votes was important in building democracy in the country.
“I always tell them that casting their ballots is their right as a citizen, not a compulsory chore,” she said. “I also tell them they should carefully choose the candidates because the nation needs the best and most-trusted candidates to build good governance.”
Being a member of a Muslim party that promotes Islamic law, or Shariah , does not prevent Lena from promoting pluralism.
“The people here always react positively to pluralism as they live with it on a daily basis,” she said, adding that Islam also teaches syncretism.
She said she did not have billions of rupiah to spend on her election campaign like some other candidates, but she felt she had more effective ways to manage a good campaign.
“I build good networks within the community and I make sure I personally reply to any questions from voters,” she said, adding that she has a Facebook account and a blog to help her spread the word.
Lena said she was never going to sell her car or house to finance her candidacy, and that her campaign had not cost more than Rp 300 million ($26,100).
“I find leaflets very effective in promoting myself — we printed 60,000 leaflets at a cost of
Rp 300 each,” she said. “I also didn’t use huge banners and prohibited my supporters from sticking my picture on trees.”
Lena said she had deployed some 150 volunteers to go door to door to promote her ideas, adding that those volunteers refused payment as most were members of the Muslim Students Association, an association in which she was active during her college days.
“I don’t go to people’s homes to push them into accepting my campaign ideas, but I’m very happy to go door to door to give them information about politics and the elections,” she said.
Lena also said she was concerned about the participation of women in government.
“The involvement of women in the political world is necessary to improve conditions for women,” she said.
If Lena relies on her reputation as a House member, Dita, one of some 200 activists running
for legislative seats, is counting on her credentials as a labor activist.
Copyright 2009 The Jakarta Globe