Women of Kuwait denied vote by Islamist lawmakers

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The Independent Online

A plan to allow Kuwaiti women to participate in local elections was postponed indefinitely yesterday when Islamist and conservative legislators abstained from a vote.

A plan to allow Kuwaiti women to participate in local elections was postponed indefinitely yesterday when Islamist and conservative legislators abstained from a vote.

Sixty members of Kuwait's parliament were present for the vote, which democratic reformers had hoped would herald a new era of female participation in the country's electoral process.

Twenty-nine voted to allow women to run for municipal council seats and vote in local elections, but two voted against and 29 abstained. Thirty-three "yes" or "no" votes were required for a valid vote and no date has yet been set for another attempt.

"There is no agreement yet on whether there will be another vote or when," the Prime Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, said after the session, which included less than an hour of debate before the vote.

Sheikh Sabah explained that another vote on the bill was possible "because parliament did not decide to reject it but decided to postpone it."

Parliament's deputy speaker, Mishari al-Anjari, said he was not sure if there will be another vote.

Those abstaining included Islamist and tribal conservatives who are trying to avoid angering the government, which supports the measure, by voting "no" and to avoid angering constituents by voting "yes".

The measure to enhance women's voting rights received preliminary approval on 19 April but yesterday's second reading of the bill and second vote was required before the the bill could become law.

Only 15 per cent of Kuwait's 950,000-plus citizens are eligible to vote in the elections. If women over 21 are allowed to register, that number could rise to 38.9 per cent, Al-Shall Economic Consultants estimates.

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