Papua New Guinea is the largest country in the Pacific, with a population of almost 7 million people. It is a geographically and ethnically diverse society, which famously boasts the largest number of languages in the world. PNG has a multi-tiered system of governance, with a national parliament, provincial assemblies and district councils, as well as a legislature for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Papua New Guinea has a national Parliament with 111 members. Since Independence, only four women have ever been elected to PNG’s National Parliament. Interestingly, immediately after Independence, in the first elections in 1977, ten women candidates ran for office, and three - Hon Nahau Rooney, Hon Waliyato Clowes and Dame Josephine Abaijah - were elected. As of 2012, there have never been as many women in the Papua New Guinean Parliament as during the 1977-1982 legislature.
The failure to make any progress in improving women’s representation in the National Parliament over the number years has reinforced calls for the introduction of some form of temporary special measure. In December 2011, the Equality and Participation Act was passed to introduce 22 reserved seats for women in the National Parliament – one seat per province, plus one for the National Capital District. In order for the Act to be implemented, a constitutional amendment was also necessary, but the Bill to amend the Constitution failed to attract the necessary number of votes in early 2012. As such, reserved seats for women were not introduced at the 2012 elections.
Papua New Guinea held their national elections on 23 June 2012. In advance of the elections, development partners undertook a number of initiatives to support women candidates. The Centre for Democratic Institutions, in partnership with the PNG Office for the Development of Women (ODW), with support from UNDP, ran Women’s Candidates Trainings for PNG women. UNDP and the PNG ODW also ran the first-ever Practice Parliament for PNG Women from 17-20 April 2012.
During the June 2012 elections, 135 women candidates ran out of approximately 3500 candidates in total. Three women candidates were successful in becoming new members of the House - Hon Delilah Gore (Sohe Open), Hon Loujaya Toni (Lae Open) and Hon Julie Soso (Eastern Highlands Regional). Hon Soso was elected from a regional seat, which means that she also automatically becomes the Governor of her province.
Autonomous Region of Bougainville
In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB), following the end of the twenty year conflict, a new constitution and electoral system were devised for the newly autonomous region in 2002. The Constitution will guide the region for ten years, after which a referendum will be held for the region to decide on its own long-term future. After much consideration, it was decided that three seats in the new legislature would be reserved for women (and three seats would also be reserved for ex-combatants). It was further decided that the seats would be elected directly by the people. Both women and men are allowed to vote for all seats.
Bougainville has 33 constituencies to elect ordinary members. The province is also divided into 3 bigger constituencies – North, Central and South – and these are used for the 3 seats reserved for women and ex-combatants. Each voter casts 3 votes for representatives in the Legislative Assembly – one for their local MP, one for the reserved woman’s seat and one for the reserved ex-combatant’s seat.
Following the passage of legislation in 2011, at the sub-national level, PNG now has 21 provinces, plus the National Capital District. Under the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government Elections 1997, every province is to have a Provincial Government and a provincial legislature, known as the Provincial Assembly. The memebrship of each Provincial Assembly comprises all Members of the National Parliament from electorates in the province. Under s.10(d), where the chieftaincy system is in existence and is accepted in a province, the Minister responsible for provincial government can appoint bewteen 3-4 paramout chiefs to sit in the Provincial Assembly.
Under s.10(e) of the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government Elections 1997, the Provincial Assembly shall also include "one woman representative nominated in accordance with an Act of the Parliament and appointed by the Provincial Executive Council".
Hon Delilah Gore
Party: Triumph Heritage Empowerment (THE) Party
Electorate: Sohe Open
Hon Loujaya Toni
Party: Indigenous People's Party
Electorate: Lae Open
Political Status: Minister for Community Development
Hon Julie Soso Akeke
Party: Triumph Heritage Empowerment (THE) Party
Electorate: Eastern Highlands Provincial
Province: Eastern Highlands
Political Status: First ever elected Governor of Eastern Highlands
Electorate: North Bougainville
Province: Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Political Status: ARB Parliament - Ordinary Member
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