A fighting chance in Kuwait

Despite what we might say about our least favorite elected leaders, it does take guts to go into politics – especially if you’re a woman in Kuwait. There, women are taking advantage of their recent admission to politics not only by voting, but by joining the race for the 50 spots in the national parliament. ...

Despite what we might say about our least favorite elected leaders, it does take guts to go into politics - especially if you're a woman in Kuwait. There, women are taking advantage of their recent admission to politics not only by voting, but by joining the race for the 50 spots in the national parliament. But not all their fellow citizens appreciate their enthusiasm, and some are doing their best to persuade the 32 female hopefuls to step out of the limelight and back into the home. 

Several female candidates have seen their billboards vandalized and have received threatening phone calls from phony police officers demanding that they withdraw from this Thursday's election, the first general election since women were granted suffrage in 2005.

Yet the women seem ready to stick it out despite the pressure. The opportunity is simply too great, as the Kuwaiti parliament is anything but a rubber-stamp assembly; it has frequently been quite assertive in its interactions with the ruling Sabah family. And the threats the women have received seem to be just that - threats and nothing more. None of the women has requested police protection.

Despite what we might say about our least favorite elected leaders, it does take guts to go into politics – especially if you’re a woman in Kuwait. There, women are taking advantage of their recent admission to politics not only by voting, but by joining the race for the 50 spots in the national parliament. But not all their fellow citizens appreciate their enthusiasm, and some are doing their best to persuade the 32 female hopefuls to step out of the limelight and back into the home. 

Several female candidates have seen their billboards vandalized and have received threatening phone calls from phony police officers demanding that they withdraw from this Thursday’s election, the first general election since women were granted suffrage in 2005.

Yet the women seem ready to stick it out despite the pressure. The opportunity is simply too great, as the Kuwaiti parliament is anything but a rubber-stamp assembly; it has frequently been quite assertive in its interactions with the ruling Sabah family. And the threats the women have received seem to be just that – threats and nothing more. None of the women has requested police protection.

The election comes just over a year after Kuwait’s first female cabinet minister, Massouma al-Mabarak, started her job. Her swearing-in ceremony last June was accompanied by much shouting and desk-pounding among some conservative MPs. Stay tuned for the election results.

Ben Fryer is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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