Reserving 22 women seats a costly business

National, Normal


ELECTORAL Commissioner Andrew Trawen has raised some concerns over the move to reserve 22 parliamentary seats for women in the 2012 general election, including the financial cost and legal implications.
He said while he could not give a “ballpark figure”, he had no doubt that such a move would be very costly.
“The commission would need to advertise, recruit and formally appoint a returning officer for each of the 22 electorates, create and maintain electoral rolls for each of them and recruit additional staff at the headquarters in Port Moresby to administer the electorates,” he said.
“For the election itself, we would need to print some four million ballot papers for the women’s seats, print some 50,000 candidate posters for use in all polling places, for public awareness and for the candidates themselves to use for campaigning purposes and procure some 9,000 additional ballot boxes.
“We would also need to print additional administrative forms for nominations, polling place returns, counting returns and the like for each polling place and procure additional stationery such as envelopes and sorting trays for each counting centre amongst a whole range of other things.”
Mr Trawen, who was addressing a seminar organised by the UN Development Programme in Port Moresby yesterday, said there were also legal issues that must be addressed before the plan could be implemented.
He said while he believed that reserving some seats for women had its advantages, he feared that political parties might opt to remove all women candidates from their nominations for all open seats, putting instead all their women nominations forward for the special or reserved seats only.
“An example of this was in Bougainville in 2005 where 25 women contested the three reserved seats but no woman contested the constituency seats.”
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said the Prime Minister’s absence from the seminar showed that the Government was not committed to increasing women’s representation in Parliament.
He said the Opposition had been blamed for hijacking a process that was adamant on paving the way for women’s entry into Parliament in 2012.
“That is sheer nonsense. If the Government’s house was in order, it would have passed it when it had the numbers,” he said.
However, since then, Sir Mekere said the parties in the Opposition had been working with the Government to establish a process that would substantially increase the number of women MPs.