While only 14% of the candidates for the Melaka state polls are women, they have been stealing the limelight throughout the campaign period so far and ahead of the election slated to take place on Nov 20.
Of the 112 candidates who submitted their names during nomination day on Nov 8, a grand total of 16 were women.
In Sungai Rembai, however, Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Farzana Hayani has been the centre of attention. At 21, the UiTM graduate who holds a diploma in communications and mass media is the by far the youngest candidate this election.
The oldest candidate meanwhile is also a woman: Kalsom Nordin, 68, of Barisan Nasional (BN) who is contesting the Pengkalan Batu state seat.
BN’s candidate in Kesidang, Leong Hui Ying, started her campaign on the wrong foot when she became embroiled in controversy following the circulation of a video in which she said she was not fluent in Malay.
Leong, who will be contesting an election for the first time, is up against DAP’s Seah Shoo Chin and Patrick Ng Chin Kae from Perikatan Nasional (PN).
When met during the launch of her election manifesto, Leong, 29, appeared nervous and awkward when surrounded by the media.
But this did not stop her from voicing her commitment to a cross-party cooperation on matters involving women, saying she was ready to work with politicians from the opposition bloc regarding issues concerning women and youth.
Another woman candidate from BN who has been having her share of the limelight is Khaidhirah Abu Zahar, the daughter of the former Melaka chief minister and another new face in the contest for the Rim seat.
Majority of women candidates from PN
Before the dissolution of the state legislative assembly, Melaka had two women assemblymen.
The upcoming election will see PH fielding four women, PN six and BN five. Putra meanwhile has one woman candidate.
In a recent interview with MalaysiaNow, PN’s candidate in Tanjung Bidara, Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, said more women should have been fielded.
In the Masjid Tanah parliamentary constituency, she said, PN had placed three women out of its five overall candidates.
“Even though PN has only been around for two years now, fielding six women in this election is a good start,” she said.
“This is why efforts are needed, so that women candidates will win this election and women will not be labelled only as filling positions.”
Activists, too, have long monitored women representation in politics while the issue was brought up in the Dewan Rakyat in September.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff had said that many women contest elections but few win.
Women, the biggest voter group
Ilham Centre executive director Mohamad Hisommudin Bakar said the small number of women candidates does not accurately represent the number of female voters who far outnumber male voters.
There are some 254,666 women voters in the country as opposed to 240,529 men, a difference of 14,137.
“There should be more women candidates participating in this state election,” he said to MalaysiaNow.
But while none of the blocs involved hit the 30% quota demanded by activists, it would be a big step forward for women if PN chooses Mas Ermieyati as its candidate for chief minister.
“Women candidates still lag behind men in terms of the number participating in the Melaka polls,” Hisommudin said.
“More space and opportunity should be given so that more women become involved in the democratic process, or at least fulfil the 30% quota for women.”
Meanwhile, Hanis Noor who is chief researcher at Iris Institute said whether women candidates were ready to hold such positions was irrelevant as it would have been a prerequisite for their preparation to be nominated as chief minister.
“The people of Melaka prefer stability over novelty,” Hanis said.
“The candidates for chief minister must show this quality through a charismatic and domineering character. And it is not impossible that female candidates must demonstrate this as well.”