Two women get elected into male-dominated PNG parliament
(L-R) The Lae MP-elect Loujaya Toni and East-West Center election observer Tina Sablan.
Picture courtesy of Tina Sablan
Two women have been elected Papua New Guinea’s newest politicians, causing major upsets in the Pacific Island nation’s male dominated parliament.
Former civil servant Dellilah Pueka Gore was declared the member for Sohe in PNG’s Oro province yesterday, beating 54 aspiring politicians which included the seat’s incumbent MP Anthony Nene, two women and 51 male candidates. In Morobe province, Loujaya Toni, who contested the Lae open seat against veteran incumbent MP Bart Philemon and 31 other candidates was declared the MP-elected this afternoon (PNG Time).
In a sign of the times another woman candidate – Julie Soso – is running second to her male rival Peti Lafanama (Eastern Highlands provincial seat). Mr Lafanama leads by just over 2000 votes but with counting yet to get to the elimination phase under PNG’s limited preferential voting (LPV) system, the woman stands a chance if she closes the gap, and then collect second and third preference votes from eliminated candidates.
PNG’s retiring sole woman MP and Opposition Leader, Dame Carol Kidu, was elated with the news when contacted by PNG Perspective.
“It's brilliant and huge congratulations are due to Dellilah who lead the whole way through the count. Also we have Julie Soso and Loujaya from Lae doing very well. To get three women in will be a new beginning for PNG. I note many people are saying ‘see we do not need reserved seats’ but have they considered the fact that the high profile given to the importance of having women in politics over the last 5 years may also have been a big boost to the issue? And offcourse Mary Kamang in Madang regional has been second to Arnold Amet the whole way and Janet Sape has been fourth – getting five (women MPs) in would show a real turnaround in PNG politics!” she said in an email.
Mrs Gore, who is in her early 50s, is from Sasembata village in Oro province’s Higaturu local level government area. She previously worked as the treasurer for Ijivitari district, operating out of the finance and treasury division in the Oro provincial government, and is an active member of the Seventh Day Adventist church.
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Her victory increases the number of MP-elects for the Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party (THE Party), headed by the Kandep MP and former Deputy Prime Minister Don Polye, to five.
Speaking to Radio Australia today, Mrs Gore said women empowerment formed the core of her policy platform during the campaign period.
“When I did women empowerment I told the women that we women are already managers in our own homes. I told them that when we go to (our) gardens we know how to harvest food and feed our children husbands, we look after our home. We look after a number of people (so) how we treat people and look after them – the management starts from the home. I want to thank the women in Sohe district to have the trust in me by giving me the votes. I had the women from Sohe supporting me all the way through and because of her support; this election has become very successful for me,” she added.
In the Lae open seat Mrs Toni became a giant killer when she unseated her clansman and the O’Neill government’s public service minister Mr Philemon, the parliamentary leader for the New Generation Party.
In May she wrote of the challenges she faced in her bid to defeat an MP who entered politics in 1992 for the PNG-focused blog PNG Attitude.
“I am also taking on a formidable opponent in Bart Philemon, who has held the seat for the last 20 years. He is a consummate strategist and will be hard to beat. Mr Philemon has kept the seat for so long because he has aligned himself with the Lae Chamber of Commerce and business houses in the city. His base vote comes from public servants and private sector employees in the town,” she said.
Campaigning under the slogan “knowledge is power to change for a better quality life, Mrs Toni zoomed in on increasing lawlessness and poverty in PNG’s second largest city and vowed to tackle illegal immigration, which is allegedly limiting the ability of traditional landowners to benefit from business opportunities.
She has a master’s degree in communication and is the first Indigenous People’s Party candidate to be elected to PNG’s 111-seat parliament.