Kuwait elects first women MPs

Four women make history as they are elected to Kuwait's male-dominated parliament.

    Al-Awadhi, a liberal candidate, was one of four women elected in a resounding victory [AFP]
     

    She also became the country's first female cabinet minister.

    'Female revolution'

    Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra in Kuwait said: "This is definitely seen by many people as a female revolution here in Kuwait ... really a historic day. 

    "There is a new mindset here in Kuwait ... there is a wind of change in this country and it's definitely going to reverberate across the gulf region."

    In video

    Kuwait votes for women and change

    The three other women elected in the resounding victory are liberals Aseel al-Awadhi, Rola Dashti and Salwa al-Jassar, an independent.

    Ten MPS are elected from each of the five districts.

    "In the third constituency district, Aseer al Awadi and Rola Dashti ran against the most charismatic Islamist and Salafist, people who have dominated political life in Kuwait over the last ten years," Ahelbarra reported.

    "And they got more votes."

    Dashti said that their success, in spite of Kuwait's male-dominated society and cultural social barriers was a cause for celebration.

    "For the last three years we've ran and to move and do this historical [achievement] without a party, without a quota, I think it is history in Kuwait," she said.

    "I think it is history for women in politics all over the world."

    US-educated

    All the four women were educated in the United States and hold doctorate degrees in either political science, economics or education.

    But Dashti stressed that the elected women elected represented a wide variety of Kuwaiti women.

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    "Yes all of us are educated, but we also have a woman who won who is married to a non-Kuwaiti, one who is divorced, one who is not yet married, one whose mother is Lebanese," she said.

    "We represent different social strata."

    Kuwaiti women, who make up 54.3 per cent of the 385,000 eligible voters, were running in the elections for only the third time after they were enfranchised in 2005. They won the right to vote in 2006.

    "Everyone is ecstatic, especially among liberal or women's empowerment groups," Jamie Etheridge, the managing editor of the Kuwait Times newspaper, told Al Jazeera.

    "Kuwaiti women are quite liberated and empowered already, but having four female voices in parliament means that issues that are important to Kuwaiti women might get a better hearing," she said.

    Sixteen female candidates were among the 210 hopefuls standing for the 50-seat parliament.

    Voter turnout was less than in previous years with only 56 per cent of Kuwaitis going to the polls.

    Sunnis suffer

    Kuwait has no officially recognised parties as candidates belong to either a political group, a tribe or they run independently.

    But the election results showed Islamists losing ground.

    The two mainstream Sunni groups, the Islamic Salafi Alliance and the Islamic Constitutional Movement, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, were dealt a heavy blow, winning three seats compared to the seven they held in the previous parliament.

    The Shia Muslim minority gained significant seats, almost doubling their strength from five to a possible nine.

    The resounding victory may offer hope that the political infighting that has frozen development will ease.

    But under Kuwait's law, a new cabinet must be formed before elected MPs are able to hold their first formal session after two weeks, a process that could potentially be stalled by the government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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