“Women Vote and Run in Kuwaiti Poll for First Time”

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According to this NYT article:

Kuwaitis voted for a new parliament on Thursday with women running and casting ballots for the first time in a national poll in the Gulf Arab state.

“I don’t know how to describe my feelings, I am so happy, it’s a beautiful day as women practice their right,” female candidate Hind al-Shaikh said. “I hope a woman makes it.”

Parliament passed a law in May 2005 giving women the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections for the 50-seat National Assembly of the oil-producing country.

More than 250 candidates are standing, including 28 women determined to make headway despite daunting odds of beating seasoned male opponents, many of them former parliamentarians seeking re-election.

“I hope all Kuwait women go out and vote and each woman has to give her vote to another woman,” candidate Nabila al-Anjari, 50, told Reuters at a polling station in Jabriya constituency.

The poll was called after Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved parliament last month following a standoff between the government and opposition over electoral reforms.

The opposition accuses some members of government of trying to turn parliament into a rubber-stamp assembly through vote-buying. But the government has dismissed the charges, saying it is committed to reform in U.S. ally Kuwait.

The opposition is a loose alliance of pro-reform ex-MPs, Islamists and liberals, tolerated in Kuwait which bans parties.

Many experts say voting by Islamists and powerful, conservative tribes will hurt the chances of women candidates. But female candidates themselves say at least one of them may win as women are 57 percent of the 340,000 eligible voters.

“I feel I am going to cry of happiness because it’s a historic moment for Kuwait … I hope a woman can make it,” said Diaa al-Saad, 55, one of the first women to vote in Jabriya.

Men and women braved the summer heat in the desert state to vote in separate polling stations across the conservative state as Islamists, who reject female suffrage, had demanded.

“Practice your right, let your voice be heard… take part in the election,” said billboards sponsored by a women’s group.

Campaigners handed out to voters roses or water bottles with candidates’ photos. Some wore scarves with candidates’ pictures.

“This is a day of big joy for Kuwaiti women, that’s why we are here early,” said Thuraya al-Qallaf after voting in Da’iya.

Most experts see only a small chance of success for female candidates given their political inexperience, tough competition from male candidates with established voter bases and the limited time they had to prepare campaigns.

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