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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Electoral first for Kuwaiti women
Women candidates Rula Dashti (C) and Aisha al-Rshaid (R)
There was joy at the election affairs department
Five women have become candidates in Kuwaiti parliamentary elections for the first time in the Gulf state's history.

One of them, woman's rights activist Rula Dashti, said it was a historic day that marked the beginning of women's involvement in Kuwaiti public life.

The Kuwaiti parliament voted last May to allow women to vote and run for office, ending a 44-year ban.

The 29 June poll was called on Sunday amid a political crisis over reform.

GULF DEMOCRACY
Bahrain: Constitutional monarch, universal suffrage, political parties banned
Kuwait: Constitutional emir, first elected parliament
Oman: Absolute monarch, elections to consultative bodies
Qatar: Constitutional emir, first to allow women's votes
Saudi Arabia: Absolute monarch, consultative elections, but no women's vote
United Arab Emirates: Federation of unelected sheikhs

"It's a dream come true and the actual beginning of Kuwaiti women's participation in public life," Ms Dashti told AFP news agency after filing her papers.

The dissolution was ordered by the ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, after a dispute broke out between government and MPs over electoral reform.

Parliamentarians opposed a government bill to reduce electoral constituencies to 10 from the current 25. Opponents want the number to be five, to counter vote buying.

Days before the dissolution, three MPs requested permission to question the prime minister, who - like other key ministers - is a member of the ruling Sabah family.

Full rights

BBC Gulf correspondent Julia Wheeler says it has been a long hard struggle for women's rights activists in Kuwait to get the vote and be allowed to stand for office.

Aisha al-Rshaid
Aisha al-Rshaid has campaigned to become a candidate
Women have been denied full political rights in Kuwait since the foundation of parliament in 1962. The ban was overturned by a parliamentary vote in May 2005 after several earlier attempts were blocked by parliament.

Women have long served as diplomats, run businesses, and worked at all levels in industry in Kuwait. A female minister was appointed soon after women were given the vote.

Under the new election law, all Kuwaiti-born citizens over 30 can stand if they know how to read and write Arabic, are registered on the electoral roll and do not have a criminal record.

It is the fourth time a Kuwaiti ruler has dissolved parliament - at times leaving the country without a legislature for years.

It was last dissolved in 1999 and before that in 1986. The legislature was only restored in 1992 after the occupation of the country by Iraq and its liberation by a US-led multination military campaign.


SEE ALSO:
Conservatism threatens Kuwaiti reforms
21 Jan 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
How democratic is the Middle East?
09 Sep 05 |  Middle East
Ailing Kuwait ruler ousted by MPs
24 Jan 06 |  Middle East
Profile: Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah
31 Jan 06 |  Middle East
Country profile: Kuwait
08 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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