KUWAIT: In a first, four women elected to parliament
May 17, 2009 | 3:35 am
Some great news for women in the conservative Persian Gulf: Kuwaitis elected their first-ever women lawmakers [second item] to parliament.
Voters in four districts elevated women into parliamentary jobs. It's believed to be the first time women have been elected to serve as lawmakers in any of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies.
Kuwaiti women were only granted the right to vote in 2005.
"It's a victory for Kuwaiti women and a victory for Kuwaiti democracy," lawmaker Aseel Awadhi, a philosophy professor, said after winning a seat.
The nation's 50-seat parliament doesn't have the power to challenge Kuwait's ruling Sabah family, but it does have the power to slow up building projects and policy changes.
When the last parliament tried to summon the prime minister on corruption allegations, the ruling Emir, Sheik Sabah al-Sabah, dissolved the chamber and called for new elections.
One of the winners, Massouma Mubarak, previously served as Kuwait's health minister, the country's first female Cabinet member.
On Sunday the Emir said he wholeheartedly supported women's arrival in the parliament.
Many Western analysts worry that hardline Islamists would dominate free and fair elections in many Middle East countries and then establish Islamic governments.
But after gaining ground over the last few years , Kuwait's Sunni Islamists actually lost bigtime during the Saturday vote as their parliamentary bloc dropped from 24 to 16 seats, according to the Associated Press.
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photos: Aseel al Awadhi is congratulated by supporters after she and three other female candidates won parliamentary seats in Kuwait's elections. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency