Da Arab News del 29/06/2006
Originale su http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4&section=0&article=84525&d=...

Kuwaiti Polls Set to Make History

di Ebtihal Mubarak

JEDDAH — Starting at 8 a.m. Kuwaitis will begin voting to elect 50 members to the new Parliament.

Women are set to make history in this election both as first-time voters and candidates since the constitution and first parliamentary elections took place in 1962.

Taking into consideration the fact that women in Kuwait make up 58 percent of the population this is a highly charged election with many changes and surprises predicted.

Since the first parliamentary elections took place more than 40 years ago, Kuwait has only had ten Parliaments and these have been stopped several times by constitutional order. The last Parliament was dissolved by the emir following a number of electoral disputes.

In this eleventh parliamentary election, the 28 women candidates are running in 17 precincts out of 25, whereas the 253 male candidates are spread out in all 25 precincts. Among the 28 women candidates only one has made an alliance with another candidate, and that is Salwa Al-Mitari who joined with Saadon Hammad.

“The whole country is upside down due to the voting atmosphere that is prevailing,” said Hamid Al-Enazi from Kuwait TV in a telephone interview with Arab News. He said that alliances and quarrels were extensively taking place yesterday before the election. Al-Enazi added that results would also be aired live on Kuwait television, most likely after midnight tomorrow.

“Rola Dashti and Nabila Al-Anjari are more likely to get the most votes from among the women candidates,” said Al-Enazi. He said that even though he personally thinks that female candidates are not going to win they would probably come third or fourth. Candidate Rola Dashti spoke to Arab News with confidence. “Tomorrow’s Kuwaiti elections will make history,” said Dashti. She said that she found a great deal of cooperation from both men and women.

She said that her voting program consists of creating solutions to translate the campaign titles into action. “Most candidates attract voters by making promises, but then don’t present concrete solutions in order to realize them.”Dashti said it was great to see women candidates from different intellectual streams and social levels. She said that female candidates did not wait for the public to come to them and ask for their program; rather on their own initiative candidates were out in supermarkets meeting and speaking to other women. “We went almost everywhere to meet up with women and talk to them rather than just wait for them to come over to our centers,” she said.

She added even if the women did not make it to the Parliament there were many positive aspects. “Our participation is crucial in the democratic path of Kuwait. Women have added a lot to the political scene,” she added.

She thinks that the usual saying that a woman is an enemy to her own kind is not true at all. “In the last Kuwaiti municipal elections a woman candidate, called Jenan Boushahar, won more votes from women than men.”Dashti has not made an alliance with anyone. She said, “I’m joining alliance with my own people, the tenth precinct public.”

“Many people felt that women candidates would not appear on the election scene in such a serious and committed manner. The calculation is different now,” said Laila Al-Awadi, head of the revision and auditing department at the Ministry of Planning in Kuwait.

Al-Enazi has a different point of view. “There is not much of a chance for any woman to win,” he said. He explained that Kuwaiti society is still conservative and many people won’t agree to having a woman representing them. “All the female candidates are trying to do their best but there is not one that can be described as an ‘ideal’ candidate.”

Al-Enazi added that does not mean that women candidates are less eligible than the men. “Most of the female candidates are activists in the social and humanitarian fields and have their own agendas that might lessen their chances of winning,” he said.

He gave an example of the Aisha Rashid who is running in the Tefan precinct, a conservative neighborhood.

Al-Enazi said that she challenged the residents of Tefan when she chose to clash with the dominant Salafi party by stating boldly, “I’m the daughter of this place and I’m going to win regardless of the Salafis’ disapproval.” Al-Enazi said people responded negatively and Aisha tried to build bridges but the damage was done.

Al-Awadi said that what’s happening now is very important in drawing the future political map of Kuwait. “The 58 percentage of women in Kuwait who are voting for the first time is definitely going to flip the balance. I remember one of the women speakers saying once that if all the women vote then it would be up to us to decide who enters Parliament.”

Al-Awadi also made another interesting remark when she said that a flyer was circulating among many Kuwaiti women containing a list of names of the previous parliamentary candidates who were against women voting. Dashti also said that if she made it to the Parliament and met the previous members who voted against women voting she would still work and cooperate with them.

“Our goal is to see a better future for our children and for Kuwait,” she said.Al-Awadi said that she would vote for the best qualified candidate and if a man and woman candidate were equally qualified then she would definitely vote for the woman.

Saudi political analysts Khaled Al-Dakhel said the Kuwaiti experience would not have a direct impact on other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia. He felt that the only impact would be a cumulative one seen by members of the public through satellite channels and newspapers. Al-Dakhel said that women would most likely be given the right to vote in the next municipal elections, as there is no law preventing that from happening.

Saudi writer and sociology professor at King Saud University Fawziya Abu Khaled said that as a Saudi woman she would be tense while watching the Kuwaiti election. “I’m afraid that the women’s votes will only be used in favor of men candidates,” she said.

She hoped the women candidates would succeed and make it to Parliament, but she feared there were many obstacles on the way. “It’s very exciting and we pray and hope the best for them,” she said.

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