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Fears women stand no chance in PNG poll

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/09/2016 Lisa Martin

A former Papua New Guinea opposition leader fears female representation in the nation's parliament will go backwards from its already low base when voters go the polls in mid-2017.

At the 2012 election three female MPs were elected to a parliament of 111 seats.

Dame Carol Kidu believes it could drop to as low as one.

"To be honest I'm not optimistic there will be a lot more women in politics, in fact it could decrease in number," she told the State of the Pacifc conference at Australian National University in Canberra.

Political campaigning in PNG had become so difficult and "money dominated" it would be hard for female candidates to get elected unless they personally had deep pockets.

Dame Carol, a veteran of three elections between 1997-2012, said campaigns were costing her more for logistics and feeding her campaign team.

Unlike other candidates she says she's never paid bribes to voters.

Australian-born Dame Carol moved to PNG at 19 and married the country's first chief justice Sir Buri Kidu .

A previous political candidate Bryan Kramer, representing a new breed of PNG politician against the "Big Man" culture, bribes and corruption, gave a presentation entitled "how to rig a PNG election".

"If you control the process, you can control the outcome," he said.

Candidates like him who operated outside the "gifting" cultural norm, stood little chance of getting up.

Mr Kramer spoke of ballot boxes being hijacked and destroyed in the PNG Highlands, others being stuffed with non-genuine votes, an electoral roll in disarray and voters being threatened and intimidated to vote for certain candidates.

Candidates often set up tents called Haus Mans in villages where freebies were given away.

A special fund for incumbent MPs to spend on projects in districts is misused for pork-barrelling purposes, Mr Kramer said.

He has vowed to run again in 2017 and says he will create awareness about election corruption, and will turn the concept of Haus Mans into campaign management offices.

The Australian aid program provides some assistance to the PNG Electoral Commission including work to remove duplicate entries on the roll.

The electoral support program was worth up to $24.9 million between 2011-15.

Support is due to be scaled-up ahead of the election, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade PNG aid report says.

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