Out of Pandora’s box: the Panguna paradox

Does PNG really dislike its women this much?

PNG will soon likely have a parliament of 118 seats with no women, one of only four national parliaments to present such a misogynistic face to the world

Candidates - Marape v Oneill
PNG politics - it's a man's, man's, man's, man's world


NOOSA - It would be easier to solve the Riddle of Tanglewood Manor than to extract from any reliable source precise and authoritative information about the election of Papua New Guinea’s 11th parliament.

But this we can be sure of. The election will extend for two weeks from 8 - 22 July. It will be for 118 seats. It will elect 22 governors and 96 MPs. That’s about it. Unless there’s a change.

More importantly though, from other data received at PNG Attitude, are three shock findings:

Candidate numbers have fallen sharply since the 2017 election

The number of women candidates has collapsed by half since 2017

Without a miracle, again in 2022 there will be no women elected

Figures to hand show the total number of candidates (although averaging a weighty 20 for each electorate) has fallen for the second consecutive election.

In 2017 there was a decrease of 3% in nominations, but this year the decrease is 30%.

The only other election since independence in which there was a decrease in nominations was in 2007, when there was a 4% drop.

One reason given for this is that campaign costs are said to have escalated since limited preferential voting (LPV) was introduced replacing a first past the post system.

It’s claimed that the need to harvest second and third preferences means candidates need to travel around more of their electorates.

But another explanation is that more constituents are putting increasing pressure for candidates to offer them inducements to vote for them, technically unlawful but difficult to police.

Or it could be that candidates are realising that with so many starters, especially those increasingly backed by political party funds, it’s simply not worth running unless you are a particularly prominent or wealthy individual.

When nominations closed on Thursday afternoon, of the 2,374 nominated candidates only 95 (4%) were women.

This was a drop of nearly half (46%) from the number of women nominating in 2017, in which none was elected to the 111 seat parliament.

The seven Highlands provinces saw only nine women amongst the 821 candidates – yielding a sorry 1% result.

Of the 1,553 candidates in the rest of PNG, 84 (5%) were women.

Candidates - womenThis leads to the inescapable conclusion that the male monopoly in the PNG government likes things that way.

All has come to nought.

And there’s been a lot of all that has come to nought.

Fine words in parliament, a country ‘plan of action’, the PNG Constitution enshrining equal rights of political participation, advocacy by women’s groups, three training workshops for women candidates, a national forum for aspiring women leaders, ‘practice parliaments’, a UNDP training manual on women’s political participation and representation, and an unrequited 2020 proposal by prime minister Marape to create five reserved regional seats for women before the 2022 election.

Plus the Australian government’s Australia-Pacific women’s parliamentary partnerships program and a ‘flagship program’, Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development.

Yes despite all this, it is highly likely PNG will soon have a parliament of 118 seats with no women, one of only four parliaments in the world to present such a misogynistic face to the world.

The collapse in the number of women candidates this year must surely push to the top of PNG’s electoral agenda the issue of reserved seats for women.

The current situation is nothing less than socially destructive.

* I have been advised informally that there is also one woman candidate from the Western Highlands, Rachael Mura


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Lindsay F Bond

More people are seeing that the election process is not a lottery. This being so, the hope is that the quality of candidates for election will improve.

While forums in each village may be little varied from tradition, in town we seem not to see soundness of policy so much as the louder voices of those in for the take.

Is the electoral formula: crowd + noise = better placed to win?

Stephen Charteris

This situation reveals why empowering women at community level is so important, economically at least.

If they have more agency and authority where it really counts then all is not lost.

Women with money tend to direct it towards the nutrition, health, welfare and education of their children, and they ensure they have control over their reproductive lives.

Women who can space children are much less prone to disastrous outcomes for themselves and their children resulting in healthier mothers and children.

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