Kuwaiti voters didn't pick women

Women ran for Parliament for the first time, but none of the 27 female candidates was able to secure a seat.

Published July 1, 2006

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwaitis did not elect a single woman candidate in the country's first parliamentary vote open to women, but reformists scored a victory that could dramatically increase friction between the Parliament and the Cabinet appointed by the ruling family.

None of the 27 women who ran against 222 men for the Parliament's 50 seats emerged with a win, according to official results released Friday, a day after women cast ballots for the first time in parliamentary elections.

"It was a loss lined with success," said Fatima al-Abdali, one of the women who ran.

Abdali polled fifth in a field of 14 candidates in the constituency of Deyyah, a suburb of Kuwait City. She said it hurt to feel that women were not regarded as equal to men in her conservative country, but that she would not give up and planned to stand in the next elections, due in 2010.

"With persistence, we will continue and we will get there," said Abdali, 48, an environmentalist.

Although winners were announced in all races, complete vote tallies were not.

No official figures on voter turnout have been released.

Thirty-six of the incoming legislators have spoken in favor of electoral reform - the issue that led the country's emir to dissolve Parliament last month and call the elections. In the last assembly, 29 legislators endorsed electoral reform. Traditionally the emir does not take kindly to seeing Cabinet ministers being pushed too hard by the legislature.

"This is proof that the people want change," said Abdul-Ridha Aseeri, a Kuwait University political scientist. "I believe the (new house) will be confrontational."

Kuwaiti women had their first chance to run and vote for public office in April after a Municipal Council seat became vacant. Turnout in that election was lower than expected, but one of the two female candidates finished second to the tribal nominee, and more men than women voted for her.