MANAMA, Bahrain, (AP) – A British-educated civil servant has become the first-ever female to serve as an elected member of Bahrain’s parliament, the Gulf kingdom said Tuesday.
Eighteen women are among 221 candidates vying for seats in the 40-member assembly in the Nov. 25 vote. But Lateefa al-Geood was the only candidate who registered to run in her region, meaning she has already technically won a seat, Bahrain’s official news agency said.
“I’m very proud as a Bahraini woman to reach this point, and I hope more than one female candidate reaches the parliament,” al-Geood told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Thirty-one women ran in municipal and parliamentary elections in 2002, but failed to win any seats. Bahraini women won the right to vote a year earlier as part of a national referendum that turned the small Gulf state into a constitutional monarchy.
“I hope all Gulf states take Bahrain’s example in giving women political rights and the right to participate in political activities,” al-Geood said.
Six women already serve in Bahrain’s upper chamber of parliament, but they were appointed, not elected. Under Bahraini law, al-Geood’s uncontested candidacy amounts to an electoral victory.
Al-Geood holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Helwan University in Egypt, and a master’s degree in financial management from the University of Nottingham in England. She currently works in Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance, as the head of the human resources department.
“I’m planning to work on issues related to the economy, unemployment and discrimination against women in the management field” when she begins work as a lawmaker, al-Geood said.
She will represent an area that includes the uninhabited island of Hawar, in southern Bahrain. One analyst said her uncontested victory was a government tactic to appease other female candidates, who were unlikely to win their seats.
“Her victory was been pre-planned by the authorities to secure a place for women who were destined to lose in the election. It is a symbolic and insignificant victory in a constituency which is virtually empty,” said Mohammed al-Othman, a columnist for the independent Al-Wasat daily.