The political structure of Bougainville as an autonomous region within Papua New Guinea reflects the important need, following the civil war, for parliamentary representation of different interest groups.
Bougainville remains part of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and has four elected representatives in the PNG national parliament. Separately, it also has its own Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and parliament (House of Representatives) which were established through the peace negotiations (Bougainville Peace Agreement) to end the Bougainville crisis.
Under the peace agreement, a referendum on Bougainville’s future political status, ie independence from PNG, was held in September 2019. The result of the referendum was an overwhelming 98% vote for independence.
General elections in Bougainville are held every five years and use a limited preferential voting system.
The parliament comprises 33 constituency members (14 from the northern region, 8 from central and 11 in the south), three women’s representatives, three former combatant representatives and a speaker (appointed from outside by the other members of parliament). The four national MPs are also afforded places in the parliament.
The President is elected directly by the people in a separate ballot and appoints cabinet members (the executive), including the vice president, from the elected members of parliament. The parliament sits in Buka.
Of the three seats dedicated to women’s representatives, one woman is elected from each of north, south and central Bougainville. Women can also contest the separate constituency seats, but the three reserved seats ensure women have a minimum representation. At least one woman elected to a reserved seat must also be appointed to a cabinet portfolio.
Former combatants from the Bougainville crisis are given similar representation, with the three members also elected from north, south and central regions.
Additionally, the emergence of Community Government also provides for local-level representation for Bougainvilleans under the Community Government Act that was passed in June 2016. There is provision for 47 community governments and the first elections were held in June 2017.
The fourth Bougainville House of Representatives was sworn in on Tuesday, 29th September 2020. The Members of Parliament assigned cabinet portfolios are:
President Hon. Ishmael Toroama: Minister for Inter-government Affairs, President and Bougainville Executive Council, Media and Communications
Vice President Hon. Patrick Nisira: Minister for Economic Development (Member for Halia Constituency)
Hon. Mathias Salas: Minister for Finance and Treasury (Member for North Nasioi Constituency)
Hon. Ezekiel Massat: Minister for Justice, Attorney General and Post Referendum Dialogue and Consultation (Member for Tonsu Constituency)
Hon. Thomas Tarii: Minister for Police and Correctional Services (Member for South Bougainville Veterans)
Hon. Rodney Osioko: Minister for Mineral and Energy Resources (Member for Kokoda Constituency)
Hon. Dr Joseph Kim Swuamaru: Minister for Technical Services (Member for Kopi Constituency)
Hon. Raymond Masono: Minister for Health (Member for Atolls Constituency)
Hon. Thomas Pataaku: Minister for Community Government (Member for Ramu Constituency)
Hon. Theonila Roka Matbob: Minister for Education (Member for Ioro Constituency)
Hon. Thompson Gitovea: Minister for Community Development (Member for Taonita-Teop Constituency)
Hon. Melvin Igiras Wilolopa: Minister for Public Service (Member for Lato Constituency)
Hon. Robert Hamal Sawa: Minister for Lands, Physical Planning, Environment and Conservation (Member for Hagogohe Constituency)
Hon. Yolande Geraldine Paul: Minister for Primary Industries and Marine Resources (Member for Central Bougainville Women)