Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Impossibility of Women Being Elected in Kuwait - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A female candidate standing for election for a seat in the National Assembly of Kuwait attempted to assert that she wanted to work for the welfare of her entire country and vowed to work towards political reform, not merely for the advancement of her gender. But this [electoral] battle is tough, even for men. There are 50 seats in Kuwaiti parliament for which around 260 men and 20 women are competing; this means that the odds against a woman winning [a seat] are extremely high according to mathematic probability theory. Evidence of this is that ever since women have been allowed to stand for parliament in Kuwait not a single one has managed to win a parliamentary seat, even though Kuwait has a long history of political experience and women’s rights in that country are far more progressive than those enjoyed by their Gulf sisters. The reason for this defeat is due to the lack of an iconic or necessary female figure [to vote for] as well as a lack of attractive [campaign] promises with regards to an important social program. A voter will not stand in line and vote for somebody who they do not believe in, regardless of their gender, even if this voter supports women’s participation in politics.

This is why I believe that the first test for female candidates is to win the female vote. If a female candidate cannot convince those of her own gender that she intends to defend their rights and needs, then it is only natural that she will fail to convince men as well. If a woman candidate makes political reform in Kuwait her first priority, she will in essence be putting herself at the bottom of the list of 280 candidates who are vying for a place in the National Assembly of Kuwait. The majority of men will not vote for a woman who has an agenda for political reform, unless this woman has a well-established political reputation, which is something that will not happen soon according to the realities of the Kuwaiti political scene. Therefore women candidates find themselves [trapped] in a vicious circle; they are in need of [gaining] a political reputation, but at the same time, they are unable to participate in parliament [for lack of one].

The belief that women will vote for women candidates is largely a false one, as women issues are not of prime concern to Kuwaiti society. Women candidates will fail to win any votes for another hundred years unless strong female personalities emerge or until women candidates are able to develop projects that attract strong female support. This is because men will not vote for weak candidates, and women do not feel that it is necessary to vote for women candidates. Therefore the challenge that faces any female candidate lies in setting forth a platform that appeals to women in the workplace, as well as motivating the female voter to be enthusiastic about going out and voting for her.

Women gaining entry to the National Assembly of Kuwait by winning a majority of votes is something that is not going to happen, for it is almost impossible to expect 20 women to compete with more than 200 men in the political arena. The National Assembly of Kuwait is just like football; it is looked upon as a sport for men. Of course there are other societies that are far less hostile towards women, like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Kuwait must finish what it started when it opened the door for participation and granted women the right to stand for election without any parliamentary guarantees. The state should [therefore] directly appoint women MPs. Free elections for women was a mistake in the first place; a model solution would have been to offer a set number of seats to women candidates with the largest number of votes in the election, even if they failed to beat male candidates. This would give them the opportunity to build a record that would qualify them for victory in free elections.