05/04/2005, 00.00
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Kuwaiti men to vote, Kuwaiti women won't

Parliament rejects universal suffrage.

Kuwait City (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Kuwait will go the polls for local elections next month but women will not be able to take part. The male-only parliament delayed an election bill in parliament leaving universal suffrage still in limbo in the Gulf Arab state

"Voters are called to elect the members of the Municipal Council in the 10 electoral districts . . .  on June 2," read the decree issued by Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah last night.

The bill initially was passed by Kuwait's National Assembly on April 19, but in accordance with Kuwaiti law it faced a second vote for ratification on Monday, May 2. However, lawmakers failed to pass it by the necessary 33-vote majority because of the abstention of Islamist and conservative MPs and the absence of others. Under Kuwaiti parliamentary rules, abstentions and absence are counted together.

Efforts to resume voting on the measure on Tuesday failed when opponents argued that it had already been rejected and that any new vote would therefore be unconstitutional.

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah shelved the issue for two more weeks.

Because the elections were called under the existing law, women are barred from participating in the coming June municipal elections even if the measure ultimately passes.

Granting women the right to vote is seen as a first fundamental step on the road to women being elected.

A 1999 bill to grant women the vote in parliamentary polls was narrowly defeated by conservative Islamist and tribal MPs who wield much influence in the current house.

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