| Academia Nomad
PORT MORESBY - Following the 2021 Port Moresby Northwest by-election, we conducted a small survey among 120 UPNG students and working class residents of the electorate.
One of the questions we asked was about the criteria they used to cast their votes in the by-election.
Another asked respondents what criteria they would use when voting in the upcoming 2022 national elections.
Figure 1 at left shows the top five criteria respondents believed were important when casting their vote in the by-election.
You can see the high focus on policy issues, and it’s quite possible that the superior education of participants affected the responses – 72% either had a degree or were studying towards one.
We cannot say for sure that, when they voted, survey participants prioritised policies as they say they did.
At the very least, though, they showed awareness that policies were important in electoral contests.
The three main issues that voters said candidates should address in Moresby Northwest were law and order in the electorate, economic opportunities and health services.
We asked the same policy question but with a focus on the 2022 national elections.
In this case, respondents said the top three issues candidates and political parties should focus on are law and order, economic development and corruption.
We then asked respondents who had voted in Moresby Northwest at the 2017 national elections whether they had voted for a female candidate (only three of the 35 candidates were women).
84% of respondents said they had not cast a vote (primary or preference) for any of the three women.
In the 2021 by-election, 48% of the respondents who voted in 2017 said they would consider allocating one of their preferences to the lone female who was standing and 37% said they would do the same in the 2022 election.
When we asked what it would take for someone not planning to vote for a female candidate to allocate a preferences to a woman, the responses tended to emphasise that they would not vote for women candidates ‘just because they are women’:
“She must not play the ‘gender card’ too much and [instead] concentrate on policy matters. Being male or female does not bring about changes we hope for but the right person with good quality,” one respondent said.
“My preference on women candidates will depend on their education qualifications and political party and policies of the party that she was endorsed by, her leadership qualities and someone who can fight for the common good for all people,” said another.
As Figure 2 shows, there was a poor response when they asked if they would vote a female candidate because she was a ‘woman’.
We asked respondents to pick the five political parties they thought would win the most seats in 2022.
The names that were mentioned most were Pangu Pati, People’s National Congress, Allegiance Party, National Alliance Party and United Labour Party.
However, the reasons given for selecting these parties were that they were led by or, in the National Alliance Party’s case, composed of prominent individuals.
Our survey participants were well educated urban dwellers, so we cannot claim our findings hold true for all of Papua New Guinea.
Yet they are still interesting because the voters we surveyed were at least aware that policies should be important in electoral competition.
At the same time, though, our participants were under no illusions about the nature of party politics in PNG, seeing parties primarily as vehicles for prominent individuals.
But this may also mean that female candidates endorsed by a party with prominent individuals will draw a meaningful number of votes.
This is an edited version of ‘PNG’s 2022 elections: parties, policies and women candidates’ by Michael Kabuni, Russel Kitau and Minetta Kanarese, Development Policy Blog, 25 October 2021