The emir, Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Jabar, angry at opposition members' requests to summon Prime Minister Nasir al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah for public qustioning over allegations of misuse of public funds and mismanagement, dissolved the 50-member National Assembly in March and called an early general election for May. The poll will be the second in a year and the third in three years in the oil-rich state, which is beset by political squabbling. The lineup of candidates will again include women.
Women won the right to vote and stand for office in 2005. Maasouma al-Mubarak made history by becoming the first female minister in Kuwait in 2005, and she was among the first women candidates to register for the May vote. In the past two elections, 54 women candidates have stood but without success. The Al-Sabah family has ruled since returning to power in 1991 and reestablished an elected legislature, which has become increasingly assertive in recent years. It is made up of liberals, nationalists, Islamists, and a large number of unaffiliated tribal members. In 1999, then-Emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, saw his royal decree in favour of women voting rejected by the National Assembly. The opposition comes mainly from conservative Muslims and tribal MPs, who argue the vote for women is anti-Islamic and against the traditions of Kuwaiti society. All Gulf countries except Saudi Arabia now have female representation at the ministerial level. The highly conservative Saudi Arabia does not allow women to vote in its limited elections, but they did have a say as candidates and voters in the Chamber of Commerce vote in Jeddah, in November last year. All candidates must be Kuwaiti by birth, aged over 30, be able to read and write Arabic and have a clean police record. Apr/09
Date written/update: 2009-05-16