Kuwait's men-only poll

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The Independent Online
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Kuwait (Reuter) - Kuwaitis hold their first exercise in democracy since the Gulf war today, voting in all-male elections for the country's first fully elected parliament in six years. In the absence of public opinion polls, the outcome or turn-out cannot be predicted.

Only men aged 21 or over who can trace their roots in the emirate before 1920 may cast ballots. Some 81,400 voters - one in seven of Kuwait's 600,000 nationals - have registered to vote for the 50-seat parliament. The Emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, will appoint a new cabinet two weeks after the polls.

Crown Prince Sheikh Saad al- Abdallah al-Sabah came out in favour of widening the limited electorate, including giving the vote to women - an issue that has dominated much of the hotly contested campaigning. The majority of the 278 candidates say they favour letting women vote and stand for parliament. Only the Islamic Popular Movement of conservative Sunni Muslims, fielding seven candidates, is unenthusiastic, diplomats say.