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The National - May 20, 2009 by James Calderwood Kuwait’s four new female members of parliament were welcomed by a red carpet, music and throngs of supporters at the Kuwait Women’s Society last night. The four women grabbed the world’s attention when they became the first female members of the 50-member parliament in this conservative Gulf country. Saturday’s election was widely regarded as a victory of liberals over Islamists. “It’s been hectic,” said Massouma al Mubarak while getting mobbed by waves of journalists at the event. “Lots of joy, but it’s hectic. No sleep, but it’s deserved. You can see the happiness all over. This is a breakthrough for women.” Ms al Mubarak was the first woman to serve in the cabinet when she was appointed by the prime minister just one month after women received full political rights in 2005. In Saturday’s election she received more votes than any other candidate in her constituency. “This is my second time to make history, so I’m proud,” she said. “This time I made it through the people; the last time I made it through the emir.” Women had failed to reach parliament in elections in 2006 and 2008. There have been three elections in the past three years because of constant friction between the parliament and the cabinet. The infighting has hamstrung the oil-rich nation’s development. This year, an economic stimulus package was held up because of squabbling in parliament. The government quickly passed the plan by decree after the last suspension, but it still needs to be ratified by MPs. This will be one of their first tasks when the assembly meets, which it is expected to do in June. Islamists took the brunt of Kuwaiti anger with the assembly’s poor performance. In addition to the women, liberal and Shiite candidates increased their share of the vote at the expense of Sunni Islamist MPs. There are no parties in Kuwaiti politics, but the two main groupings of Islamists were reduced to three seats after holding seven in the last parliament. Male and female supporters at last night’s reception were jubilant over the women’s success. “What has happened now gives us hope in democracy,” said Haifa al Moussa, who voted for four women in her district. “Most people had lost hope in democracy and that is very dangerous. We speculated that there would be women in the assembly, but not four. It’s amazing,” she added. “The people sent a clear message: the old way wasn’t working. The people who were representing us were out of their minds.” Each of Kuwait’s five electoral districts elected 10 MPs. Ms al Mubarak received more votes than anyone else in the Shiite-dominated first constituency. Aseel al Awadhi came second and Rola Dashti came seventh in the third constituency. Salwa al Jassar was the fourth woman to win a seat when she came 10th in the second electoral district. Women had to overcome considerable obstacles in Kuwait’s male-dominated political culture to achieve their success. It took six years for a royal decree in favour of giving women the vote to get through the then-Islamist-dominated parliament. Female candidates also had to be accepted in diwaniyas, rooms where men socialise and talk about politics. Women do not normally attend diwaniyas, but they are crucial way for candidates to increase their support. Women have gradually been accepted in the diwaniyas. In last year’s election, Ms al Awadhi said she had so many invitations that she could not visit them all. Women also faced tough opposition from ultra-conservative Islamists in the run-up to the election. One of the Salafi parties and an Islamist MP who retained his seat, Waleed al Tabtabai, said it was a sin to vote for female candidates. Another Islamist candidate called Ms al Awadhi an infidel. But the Islamist’s tactics failed to stop the swell of public opinion in favour of women. Ms al Jassar summed up their mood after winning her seat. She said: “Finally our democracy is walking on two legs as we have male and female parliamentarians.”

Altri articoli su:
[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

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[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

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[ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Kuwait ] [ Medio Oriente ]

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