It’s election campaign time in Vanuatu where women candidates will try their luck once more to outpoll their male counterparts and end the ‘zero women in parliament’ drought with hopes for a place in Parliament.
The Vanuatu Electoral Commission on Tuesday announced the names of eligible candidates to run for the 2020 election. Of the 234 total candidates, 223 are men and 11 are female candidates.
The number of female candidates could increase in the coming days once the ineligible candidates fix their outstanding debts with various government departments. They have 72 hours to do that under the election laws of Vanuatu.
In 2016, ten women contested the national election. None made it into the national Parliament.
Of the 11 female candidates declared by the Electoral Commission yesterday, seven are rallying under different political parties while four are contesting as Independents.
Anne Pakoa, who will be running as an Independent for one of the four Port Vila constituency seats believes women prefer to run as Independents for various reasons.
“Personally, I think political Parties do not accept them, secondly parties’ policies are not agreeable to the candidate and in particular women, they must pass some crazy male-based criteria to be accepted into a male-dominated party.
“It takes a lot to be a leader in a small island developing state like Vanuatu where we are culturally and spiritually strong,” she said.
Pakoa believes women must go the extra mile to prove themselves worthy to run for office.
The poor representation of women in Vanuatu parliament is a continuing trend. Since Independence, only five women have been elected into parliament, the most recent in 2008.
With only 11 women declared eligible to run for the election during the first announcement on Tuesday, the slow response from government departments to the Electoral commission on the candidates’ eligibility is also causing delays and doubts for many candidates.
One of the prominent women leaders whose name was not read out during the declaration of eligible candidates, Dr. Andrina Kl Thomas, said she has already settled her outstanding fee of Vt 9000 (approximately FJD$167) and is ready to start her campaign at her constituency on the Island of Santo very soon.
“We have to give it a go and I will continue to influence, educate and advocate for the adoption of good governance ethics and integrity standards aimed at improving institutional performances.”
While women in Vanuatu continue to struggle to make it into the national parliament, there have been some positive developments in the representation of women in higher government positions and in the private sector.
Prior to the launching of the Vanuatu election campaign on Tuesday, a panel discussion in Port Vila hosted by the Vanuatu Dialogue Live Team considered the theme ‘the rise of women does not mean the fall of men’.
The Vanuatu election campaign is now ongoing and will end at midnight on March 16 ahead of polling day on March 19.
A final official declaration of eligible candidates will be announced this coming Friday.