07th August, 2012
[The National – by ZACHERY PER]: EASTERN Highlands yesterday celebrated electing the first female governor in Papua New Guinea as T.H.E Party candidate Julie Soso swept into office. The humble and outspoken women’s rights leader yesterday emerged from her Asariufa home on the outskirts of Goroka town to be declared the duly-elected governor of Eastern Highlands.
Soso is the first woman to be elected to parliament from the country’s highlands region, an area known for its “big man” politics. She will join two other female MPs, T.H.E Party colleague Delilah Gore (Sohe open) and Loujaya Toni (Lae open) of the People’s Indigenous Party in parliament when it next sits. She is the seventh woman to be elected to parliament.
Soso polled 119,606 votes at the end of the 38th and final exclusion for an unbeatable lead over nearest rival, Sir Barry Holloway, who tallied 111,476. She was declared winner by Eastern Highlands provincial returning officer Ikiso Kosanama at the National Sports Institute in Goroka.
In her maiden speech, Soso commended the Electoral Commission for introducing the limited preferential voting (LPV) system which paved the way for her election to the governor’s post.
The previous first-past-the-post system had been a “men’s game”, she said. Soso said: “I have contested the Eastern Highlands regional seat unsuccessfully for the past three elections and have now won in my fourth attempt.” She thanked God for the good health and wisdom that enabled her to come this far. “I thank my family, especially my husband Akeke, for all the undivided support towards me. “It takes a strong man to support his wife. Akeke, you are the best,” Soso said. She also thanked her people of Asariufa, Electoral Commission staff, security personnel, other candidates and supporters who helped her.
Soso dedicated her win to all the women candidates who contested seats in the highlands region, especially those who decided to go to the polls in frustration at the shelving of the 22 reserved seats for women bill. She said her win would put women on a good footing to contest the 2017 elections.
Henganofi MP Robert Atiafa, Unggai-Bena MP Benny Allan and highlands police divisional commander Teddy Tei witnessed the declaration. Eastern Highlands provincial elections manager Jimmy Alwyn commended Soso for the win. He said he had been with the Electoral Commission since 1982 and was pleased to declare a female governor under his watch.
“It is always difficult to get women elected into parliament from the highlands,” Alwyn said. “Soso has achieved a milestone by becoming the first woman in the highlands to be elected governor. “She collected the most preferences from across the province. She picked up 15,800 in the final elimination to pass absolute majority,” Alwyn said. He said the people had spoken through the ballot, demonstrating that they were prepared to accept women leaders.