Kuwait: Election History: Four Women Win Parliament Seats

Election fever has swept Kuwait, culminating in a historic and momentous event for the nation! Kuwait was expecting at best one or two women to make it to Parliament but we got four (Dr. Aseel Al-Awadi, Dr. Rola Dashti, Dr. Salwa Al-Jassar and Dr. Masouma Mubarak)! Amer Al-Hilal here with an extra-large ‘Special Edition Election’ post from Kuwait with reactions from the Kuwaiti blogosphere.

We kick-off our coverage with The M Code in a post titled ‘Freedom and Democracy,’ in which the blogger (prior to the Election results) regrets the misuse of democracy in Kuwait:

I don’t believe that freedom and democracy is to please the majority and disregard the minority, and I don’t believe it’s to please the minority and disregard the majority. I believe that it’s to please both the minority and the majority, to provide all options and not only one option for the people. For example, instead of enforcing segregation in all colleges there must be colleges with segregation for those who want segregation and colleges without segregation for those who don’t mind having no segregation. But the question is, is there any hope left for anything anymore? I don’t believe so. It’s all downhill from years ago and for years to come. The voices of freedom and democracy and whatever we say are like mortal winds, making papers fly and leafs move for a while then dieing away. It’s really depressing to know without doubt that there is no hope for anything at all. There is a future for the dictatorship of the majority over the minority, but no future for real freedom and democracy.

Hilaliya, in a post entitled ‘Congratulations Kuwait‘ reacts to the election results:

Our faith in the system and people of Kuwait was reaffirmed today.

Following years of uncertainty and gridlock, the people of Kuwait have voted for change. I am certainly in high spirits, and relieved. We were hoping one or two women would make it in, we got four!

Some newcomer independents also won and ‘Hadas’ took a big hit in the 3rd District (my district). The ‘fatwas’ and mudslinging by xenophobic elements towards women and progressive candidates backfired, reenergizing and intensifying support for them.

Congratulations to the qualified ladies and newcomers.

The popular culture blog 4th Ring Road took a rare detour into political territory by offering an interesting analysis on the recent election results:

The elections came and went but its results will stick in our minds forever. His Highness the Emir said to help him by choosing wisely. The Kuwaiti voters responded and the change we saw today morning is greater than it looks.

It might seem obvious that 4 female MPs, a great moment in Kuwaiti history, is change enough but we must look more closely to see even more change. The fall of Islamic MPs was in my opinion a sign that Kuwaiti voters were very disappointed at what they achieved in the past. Hadas now only has Jum’an Al Hirbish to represent them and Khalid Bin Essa along with Ali Al Omair representing the Salafi movement. Other independent Islamists managed to win but their popularity decreased significantly. In the third district, Waleed Al Tabtabaie did not do as well as last year and so was the case with Al Omair, Al Meslim and Al Sara’awi. I worried about Al Sara’wi the most because he could not be classified as Islamic, his proverbial beard was never used to promote his agenda. The voting numbers of the Islamic candidates might be a warning sign to them and they should keep a low profile, no more dancing and shoe lifting!

The smear campaign aimed at Aseel and Al Meslim did not stop them from being MPs and that proves that the voters are now more aware of who were behind these dirty tactics and what was the purpose behind it. Hadas also had suffered from bad press but there is no reason to dwell further…

DixieBedouin's post ‘Congrats Women!’ had this to say:

What does it mean to Kuwait to have women in the government? Actually, what does it mean in any government? I think there is reason to hope. All of the things that I have complained about could be addressed with women in power (education, environment, lawlessness, etc.). Not that men can't address the issues, rather that they haven't. Too much testosterone seems to lead to progress constipation, so my hope is that the women will be true to their nature and give this country some long needed nurturing. I know, I know, not all women are the same, but let's face it, that is what we need here in Kuwait, a mother's eye for prioritizing, organizing, and getting things accomplished!

An elated post in CAPS (‘Change Has Come!‘) by Eshda3wa praises the election results, stating that she is proud of Kuwait and the way it voted this time, regretting Salafist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaie's win:

AHAL ALKUWAIT (People of Kuwait)- YOU ROCK!!!!

Windowless’s ‘Yes To Democracy!’ post was ecstatic in its reaction to the election results. Windowless states:

Sometimes I have difficulties falling asleep I can’t seem to shut the mind off! Last night, I had difficulty falling asleep, so I was tuned into quite a bit of election coverage while attempting to pass out. I know, I know… bad idea! How are you supposed to fall asleep while watching election coverage! While I was in bed I just realized what had happened And I’m well aware that Kuwaiti voters scored a historic breakthrough by electing the first women MPs. I know that represents the change the Kuwaiti needs, In particular she become a strong competitor not because she is a woman; because she possessed talent and efficiency to enter the parliament and this is a major leap forward.

Rants and Ramblings, in a post entitled ‘Kuwait's First Female MP's’ lauds the results of the election:

I am so beyond elated right now!! Soooo proud of everyone who made the right choice yesterday!! If only we had known that these are the results that we would get when only half the people vote, right? To those who didn't vote, malat 3alaikum [shame on you]! You have let your country down big time. Bas [But] you know what? Thank God that there are still people who have not given up on their country. Thank God that there are still people who went and voted for the right people and didn't think “why should I bother? they won't win anyway”. Thank $#%#^ God! To those who have lost hope about ilwath3 ilsiyasi [the political situation] in the last few years: maybe what happened yesterday is what's going to make you be more optimistic about what what we can really do for our country instead of letting ilmutakhalifeen [the backward people] run it! First Obama and now this! Politically-wise, '09 has got awesome written all over it! We all went to congratulate Aseel @3am min ilfar7a [out of happiness]. I'm so incredibly proud of her, it's ridiculous!

Organic Kuwait in the post ‘A New Kuwait‘ is also ecstatic at the election results, following the election of four women to Parliament.

i knew it i knew it i knew it i knew it !! i knew kuwaitis wont let baba Suba7 [father Subah – in reference to Kuwaiti Amir Shaikh Subah ] AL Ahmed Al Jaber] down.. i knew WE WERE READY FOR CHANGE..
this is a good morning! a REALLY GOOD MORNING :”)

Chillnite, a technology analyst and blogger, praises the election results in Kuwait, stating we are finally moving towards a ‘gender bias-free democracy,':

Kuwait broke the rusted tradition, where the population voted overwhelmingly in May 16th elections for 4 women candidates and voted them into the parliament. Even the general results point towards a more liberal movement in thought process of the electorate. Lets hope that the elected officials leave behind the constant bickering on trivial issues and concentrate more on pressing issues like economy, labour, and general welfare.

Kuwait Times front page celebrating the new women MPs taken by blogger Intlxpatr

Kuwait Times front page celebrating the new women MPs taken by blogger Intlxpatr

Popular expatriate blogger, Intlxpatr from ‘Here, There and Everywhere‘ rejoices with her progressive Kuwaiti brothers and sisters in a post entitled ‘Joy In Kuwait,’:

You might think it is the inner feminist in me that is rejoicing, and you would be only half right. The Kuwait elections brought me a lot of joy, for many reasons. First, as an equal opportunity woman, you need to know that I believe women are every bit as capable of veniality and stupidity as men, and that not being in power has only meant not having equal opportunity to abuse that power. And then – you take a look at the women who were elected – smart women. Capable women! Not-your-shy-shrinking-violet kind of women! Women who know how to organize, how to delegate, and how to discuss and resolve differences.

My joy is in the renewal of their spirit. It’s not my election. But oh, I dance with joy for your joy, Kuwait, and I celebrate your commitment to the future.

PS For our non-Kuwaiti readers – early in the election campaigns, one party announced a religious fatwa (edict) saying that it was forbidden to vote for women. I think it outraged people badly enough to create a huge backlash.

LOFT965 offers his usual cynical, sobering but sharp take on the recent election results:

Don’t mind the late-news headline, but I couldn’t resist the “News Of The Day” aura. So, yes Kuwait finally did it. The people of Kuwait broke another barrier in the on-going war on sexism and discrimination. And when it rains, it pours. Not one, but four. One of which was the first in her district and another the second. It’s hardly a liberal uprising and, to tell you the truth, some of them could might as well pass for the piety bloc. But, complaining is so 2000 and late.

Even as the beardist ghouls are still lurking and will probably be watching all the female MPs for any minor slip-up, the social outpouring for such a victory is proof of the women have public popularity and that means staying power. The general reception of the election results is nothing but an indication of the need to break the routine and reassess the state of the nation. All these lies and the propaganda seem to be not convincing anymore and that’s why we see these changes.

The liberal gain, aside from the inclusion of women in parliament, is really not the prominent. The fundamentalist loss is considerably better. But the fight on tribalism, corruption, favoritism, discrimination and even sexism is far from over. In fact, it barely started. In congratulations, people are still referring to these women as ” حريم”. A word that is drenched in objectification of women as forbidden beings. Not to take this post into a rant on feminist theory, but just an indication of how far we have to go.

Positively, though, it’s a good day not just for Kuwait but all of humanity and a sign that there is room for change. Now these women will enter as a foursome and the religious fascists will have to deal one-on-one with them if they want to get votes to have their bills passed. Moreover, they will have first-hand experience as to what it feels like for a women to live in Kuwait. Stone-Age laws like segregation, the ban on Kuwaiti women to bestow citizenship, marriage issues, unequal inheritance and divorce will definitely be get a revisiting, if not a rehashing.

American expatriate blogger Desert Girl praises her former Washington DC colleague Dr. Rola Dashti's win (‘Mabrook Rola!‘) [Congratulations Rola]:

All your struggles and perseverance have finally paid off.

I remember when you slept next to your desk in the Kuwait Reconstruction Office in DC in 1991, working so hard that your mother shook her head in worry over you.

I remember seeing your brothers meet in the street in Kuwait on Liberation Day 1991: Salah in the Resistance and Jamal as an interpreter with the US Army. CNN captured the moment and showed your mother watching it happening live from Washington, DC and finally knowing that both of them were ok – with tears running down her face.

I remember sitting with ne're do well men who skoffed at the idea that you could make it in politics and I remember thinking that they were idiots – as they chose to rape Kuwait working for personal benefit in politics.

To those people said you were “too Lebanese”, not married, not belonging to any major group, “too this” and “not enough that” – I say ‘IN THEIR FACE!’

I have met very few people who have Kuwait's best interest at heart the way that you do – who are willing to fight for what they believe in – even in the face of strong opposition on different sides. You fought when others gave up.

Finally, Kuwait is voting for QUALIFIED candidates – not just by who their family members told them to vote for or who paid the most for a vote. Someone who has been Chairperson for Kuwait Economic Society with a PhD in Economics from Johns Hopkins is qualified.

Good on you, girl! Time to take it all to the next level – give them a good run! We are so so so so proud of you.

Lastly, Drunk'n'Gorgeous offers her own recollection as a campaign volunteer for MP Dr. Rola Dashti:

I'm elated that several women won. That Dr Rola Dashti was among the winners… well that just rocks!

I joined her camp about a month ago with the illusion that I was going to be doing some real work instead of just showing up, sitting there, and looking purdy. On the plus side, I had so much fun and made even more friends. The last few days especially were awesome! That said, yesterday was brutal! We had to wake up at the crack of dawn, hotfoot it to the schools we were allocated to, man our positions, and “work it”. What was even more refreshing was the fact that the chicks, young and old, the one's that came to vote and the ones who were working, like us, were all so freakin nice! That seriously blew me over. No matter how many times I see it, feel it, experience it. I still can't believe it. The women that came to vote were all “ya36eekum il3afyah” [may God bless you]. The younger chicks that were “workin’ it” were super-friendly to each other and to the girls in other camps. Four different chicks from different camps tried to feed me. Apparently, I can be tamed with food.

At night, everyone let their guards down and completely relaxed. There was singing, clapping, and some weird dancing. The jovial mood spread like wildfire. Pretty soon, everyone seemed drunk. I felt a certain fondness for all these crazy, happy, hard-working, good people. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they're my people.


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