While it is true that all 28 women candidates in Kuwait were severely defeated in the parliamentary elections, the recent vote showed that more women voted than men did. More than two hundred thousand women went to the polls for the fist time in Kuwait’s history, out of a total of 340 thousand voters. What an amazing percentage, especially when confronted with those who claimed that no more than 25% of eligible women would cast their votes because of the religious and moral debate concerning the participation of women in elections.
Convincing any segment of society to vote is difficult, let alone in a conservative country such as Kuwait. As women flocked to the ballot boxes, they achieved a remarkable victory!
The initial figures reveal the importance of the female vote. Women decided parliament’s fate. In Kuwait, more women than men voted. More women took part in the elections than any other Arab society. Because of their surprising enthusiasm for the vote, Kuwaiti women will soon become a target for candidates. While this election was fought on general concerns, in the future, women’s issues, such as employment, will become the center of debate. Candidates will then compete to gain the female vote, perhaps at the expense of political issues.
Those who were angered by the defeat of all female candidates and the Islamists’ win have missed the point. For one, the result was not unexpected. Women have already suffered electoral defeats in Bahrain , Qatar and Oman . As for the gains attained by Islamist parties, they remain less than expected; they are the only party to have fought the elections, as others fought as independent candidates. The people’s choices ought to be respected, irrespective of the reasons and justifications behind it. Many were also perplexed by the fact that a significant number of women voted for Islamist candidates, despite the latter opposing them gaining the right to vote. This is normal. Women tend to vote for conservative parties, when they are no other social concerns of concern to them. In the future, candidates will be judged on their performance and we will witness voting based on services and not solely on political hues.