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Page last updated at 04:36 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009 05:36 UK

Kuwait votes for first female MPs

Rola Dashti
Kuwait's parliament, the oldest in the region, will admit four women

Kuwait has elected its first female MPs following the oil-rich country's third general election in three years.

US-educated Aseel al-Awadhi and Rola Dashti were among winners in the third district, official results declared.

The 10 leading candidates from each of Kuwait's five electoral districts are elected to the 50-seat parliament.

The emir dissolved the previous parliament in March because it wanted to question his nephew, the prime minister, about alleged corruption.

There are no political parties in Kuwait; the prime minister appoints ministers most of whom are unelected.

"It's a victory for Kuwaiti women and a victory for Kuwaiti democracy," Ms Awadhi told AFP news agency.

"This is a major leap forward," she said. The right to vote and stand for election to Kuwait's parliament, the oldest in the Gulf, was extended to women in 2005.

Former Health Minister Massouma al-Mubarak, who became the first Kuwaiti woman to be appointed to a ministerial post in 2005, and Salwa al-Jassar, have also secured seats in parliament.

Frozen development

Parliamentary pressure to investigate and question ministers on deals has previously seen the cabinet cancelling or delaying multi-billion dollar international projects and social development plans.

Election rally in Kuwait

During campaigning, anti-government feeling among some candidates has moved to a higher level - two people were arrested for criticising the ability of the ruling al-Sabah family to govern.

They still hold the post of prime minister as well as the key defence, interior and foreign affairs portfolios.

Many voters had complained about the frozen development caused by the political gridlock.

"Men don't have credibility anymore. We're fed up with crises." Ibrahim al-Attar told AP news agency after casting his vote for four female candidates.

One of the first tasks awaiting the new parliament will be to vote on a $5bn stimulus package designed to help the financial sector of the oil-rich state cope with the global economic downturn.



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