06/30/2006, 00.00
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"Historic" vote for women but none elected as Islamists win

Although they made up the majority of the electorate, women thought female politicians were still "green" and so they voted for male candidates. The mainly Islamist opposition won 33 out of 50 seats.

Kuwait City (AsiaNews) – "Kuwaiti women make history" read the headlines of Gulf and Middle East newspapers, referring to the "first time" that women voted during the 29 June political ballot. Female voters represented 57% of the electorate: 195,000 compared to 145,000 men. But not one of the 28 female candidates was elected and the Islamic-led opposition emerged victorious in the poll. "Women flock to polls" ran the Bahrian Tribune headlines and similarly, the Middle East Times and Lebanonwire told of "Kuwaiti women flocking to historic polls".

"We have found new meaning to our existence," wrote the Kuwaiti Arab Times about the women's vote. The final obstacle to the "realization of a long-cherished dream of political rights" was the burning sun and temperatures of around 50 degrees. The newspaper said the women, without or without "abayas", the Arab version of the chador, turned up to wait in long queues outside polling stations. Nadia, a 23-year-old voter in Bayan electoral district, told Arab News: "I haven't slept all night and have been waiting for the polling to start," so that women "could prove their competence". She said, however, that she would not be voting for the woman candidate on her district, Rola Dhasti, because she thought women politicians in Kuwait were still "green" and lacking in political experience. Afaf, 39-year-old sales clerk, said much the same. "The women candidates are still politically naive and have not had enough time to get ready for the elections," she said. And Lamiaa Khaled, 50, a housewife, told The Gulf Today "women should not be in parliament fighting like men," to explain why she gave her vote to a man, a conservative.

Many followed suit. On a political level, official results give the opposition a majority out of the 50 seats in parliament. The Islamists conquered 21 seats, increasing their former share of 18 seats by three. They will make up the main block in parliament. Together with others from the opposition, they will have 33 seats, four more than before.

Those backing the current government dropped from 19 to 13 seats and the liberals from eight to six.

Kuwait was the first country in the region to introduce a constitution and free elections in 1962 and the first to allow women to vote, passing a law to this effect in 2005.

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See also
Elections: historic success for Shia minority. Turnout below 30%
Four women elected to Kuwait’s parliament
Kuwaiti men to vote, Kuwaiti women won't
One of first women to contest Kuwaiti polls comes second
Islamist parties win the elections in Kuwait


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