This blog highlights some technical issues observed from the PNG National Research Institute’s ‘Women in 2017 Election’ study and how they impact women candidate’s political aspirations. The NRI Gender team carried out a study in Morobe Province (from 15 June to 30 June 2017) to understand election dynamics by documenting campaigns of women candidates and polling.

Many technical issues have been raised in previous reports on women representation (Baker, 2016; Haley, 2016; and Sepoe, 2013) and elections (Transparency International Report 2012; National Research Institute, 2011; and National Research Institute, 2010). The reoccurrence of these issues in the 2017 elections indicate that these concerns have not been adequately addressed.

One way that women’s political participation and representation can be improved is through addressing technical electoral issues.

Technical issues affecting women candidates

Highlighted below are some technical issues observed in campaign and polling that impact women candidates.

Issues during campaign

  • Logistics may be the biggest challenge for the women candidates to carry out a good campaign. There is little to no support from the political parties that endorsed the women candidates. Of the 167 women candidates, only 61 were endorsed by political parties. Lack of party support impacts on critical aspects of campaigning such as support and policies.
  • Law on campaign is not effective, this leaves room for a lot of attacks from rival candidates and the general voters. Stereotype sentiments are shared by supporters and voters that impact on the voters and their preferences for women candidates;
  • Supporters tend to support a candidate because of his or her reputation, han mak or is related to the candidate in some way. Supporters do not really know the policies of the political parties or the individual candidates. Education and awareness on the importance of policies is important.

Picture 1Campaign haus in the Lae Open District.

Issues during polling

The issues identified during polling affects women more. Since independence, only seven women entered Parliament. If the technical issues are not improved, then women’s representation will continue to remain low. This is because the outcome of the election results tend to favour men as evident in the last nine elections.

Some of the technical issues include:

  • The number of ballot papers were not in proportion to eligible voter turnout. There were shortages of ballot papers. And the names of many eligible voters were not on the common roll. These issues have transpired in the 2012 elections but there has not been any improvement in this election. When this happens, eligible voters are not included in the common roll, or cannot vote because there are insufficient ballot papers. As a result, the woman candidate loses her chances to win because her supporters cannot vote.
  • Some electoral boundaries overlap in certain areas, and this impacts on voter registration and voting. In turn, people in these areas do not know where to vote. This confusion affects their support and vote for women candidates.
  • Lack of proper identification and registration management process of voters during polling contributed to multiple voting. This was taken lightly where people use alcohol swab, lime and lemon to remove the supposedly indelible ink. Few voters who were interviewed indicated that some people voted two times or more. Multiple voting is not a new issue. Transparency International PNG (2012) has pointed out that multiple voting is most likely to occur when the identification process is weak. Moreover, lack of identification has also resulted in underage children voting or making attempts to vote. Some voters interviewed mentioned that male candidates deal with ‘money politics’, buying votes from both men and women. When this happens, male candidates get more votes than the women candidates.
  • Women voters still encounter intimidation and undue influence by male relatives or their husbands on whom to vote for. It hinders the woman voter to freely and effectively exercise her democratic rights to participate in the national elections. This occurred despite the first time application of the ‘female line’ and ‘express line’ to vote.

Picture 2Women voters in Lae, Morobe Province, 29 June 2017

Recommendations to improve technical issues that will address issues faced by women

  • Lobby for political support for the amendment to the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLPPAC) to include 20 percent endorsement of women candidates in political parties in the next election;
  • Parties to do effective awareness and education of their policies, as well as the importance of policies;
  • Review laws relating to campaign and effectively enforce laws on defamation of other candidates. There is a public manual produced by the Electoral Commission on election offences in reference to the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections, and the Criminal Code (Chapter 262). Number 24 refers to the Defamation of Candidates that result in a penalty of K1, 000 or imprisonment for six months. This law must be enforced.
  • The Electoral Commission should conduct the updating of common roll immediately. This also means that the government needs to prioritise and allocate sufficient funds for a nationwide common roll update. The budget should include all provinces, as well as training for Electoral Commission staff to enter accurate data into a computerised system. The government should seriously consider electronic voting that includes use of ID system that will cut out multiple voting, and inconsistency in roll update.
  • Review electoral boundaries so that district boundaries are clearly defined. This will make it easy for people to cast their votes in the right electorate.

Other recommendations to improving women’s participation

  • Intending women candidates should prepare well in advance (five to ten years) prior to election. Preparedness in terms of finance, campaign strategy, and support base are important. This will allow them to secure enough resources for example, to run a good campaign during elections;
  • Approaches to address lack of women’s representation must be holistic and sustainable. For example, women candidates’ training should also include men who are working closely with the women candidates, such as the male campaign managers. This would allow men to share their experiences and ideas with women candidates in areas that need improvement. Also engagement of previous female MPs is vital particularly to mentor intending female candidates;
  • Government must take ownership and establish a coordinating mechanism for all relevant stakeholders to work together.

 

* Mary Fairio is a Research Fellow in the Gender in PNG Program at PNG NRI; Sarah Kaut-Nasengom is Research Project Officer in the Gender in PNG Program at PNG NRI.

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