Mabrook to the women of Kuwait.

Author:Wells, Rhona
Position:CURRENT AFFAIRS
 
FREE EXCERPT

For the first time in its almost 50-year history, four women MPs have won seats in Kuwait's National Assembly. Their election to parliament is seen as a positive sign that Kuwaitis have elected instead to vote for positive change.

Two days before the voting, there was a positive air of expectation. At a press conference, the Minister of Information, Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, highlighted the government's initiative urging "people to vote for ideas rather than friends, to give parliament a real voice and meaningful weight".

As a local journalist explained: "The life of the Kuwaiti parliament has been tumultuous, the last one only lasted four months and was dissolved just a week before it had a chance to publish its plans for the future. I believe this time it will be different." He noted, "I think people want to see change and will vote accordingly."

The main issues of the campaign focused on the economy. With many Kuwaitis clamouring for a solution to the financial crisis and a halt to rising prices, the subject featured high on the agenda of all candidates.

The housing shortage, deficiencies in the health and education sectors and the fight against corruption were also key issues. A common leitmotif for the candidates was the desire to put an end to the political deadlock caused by long-running disputes between parliament and ministers.

Many believed the success of women would help this process along. Running as a candidate in District Two, Jassim Al Kharafi said on election day: "Women running for parliament is a good thing, it will give a fairer representation of society, if they get in".

Asked about his hopes for a new order of representatives, Kharafi commented: "My main hope for the future is true cooperation between the government (unelected and chosen by the Emir) and the parliament (elected by the people). None has really existed in recent years," he said, noting: "Kuwait has a lot of potential; oil is of course a major contributor to GDP, but business plays a major role nowadays in the economic mix and for business to thrive, we need stability."

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With all men and women over 21 eligible to vote, with the exception of male members of the police and armed forces, some 384,790 Kuwaitis registered at the polls, more than half of them women.

The candidates and their supporters had rallied late into the dusty night to engage the largest number of voters, the campaign taken to the...

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