07th August, 2012
Papua New Guinea has elected its third woman to parliament in an unexpected and historic vote.
Julie Soso was on Monday declared governor of Eastern Highlands province, defeating incumbent governor Malcolm Smith Kela and PNG’s first speaker of the house, Sir Barry Holloway.
Soso is the first woman to be elected from PNG’s highlands region, an area known for its patriarchal “big man” politics.
She will sit in parliament with two other female MPs elected at the 2012 poll, Loujaya Toni and Delilah Gore.
Governor-elect Soso is the seventh woman to be elected to PNG’s parliament since it gained independence from Australia in 1975.
“I have contested the Eastern Highlands regional seat unsuccessfully for the past three elections and have now won in my fourth attempt,” Soso told supporters.
“My priority will be to ensure services reach the people at the local level government level and ward levels.
“I will work closely with the eight MPs and public servants with a serving heart to serve you.”
Retired opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu – who for 15 years was PNG’s only female MP – said the election of three women to PNG’s male dominated, 111-seat parliament was an unexpected boon.
“For a woman to win a regional seat is a huge achievement,” she told AAP.
“I feel very happy with the result.”
Dame Carol, who was a lone voice for better health services in parliament until just before the June/July poll, said the election of Soso and Gore, both members of the Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party, showed what party backing can do.
“In the past parties don’t back women cause they think, ‘we want someone who can win and women can’t win’,” she said.
“If parties get behind women, they can win.”
Dame Carol refused to speculate if one or all three women would be promoted to portfolios when Prime Minister Peter O’Neill unveils a 33-strong ministry on Wednesday.
“That’s up to the prime minister,” Dame Carol said.
“It is very important they establish themselves in their electorate. We don’t want them there for five years, we want them there for 15.
“The honeymoon will be over in a year or so and people will attack you”