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The BBC's Gulf correspondent Frank Gardner
Rousing cheer when the bill was rejected
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 November, 1999, 14:48 GMT
No vote for Kuwaiti women
men applauding Kuwaiti men applaud the vote in the public gallery

Kuwait's parliament has rejected a bill giving women the right to vote and stand for parliament.

Hundreds of Kuwaiti men cheered as the National Assembly was split by 32 votes against and 30 for.

All but one of the 65 MPs and cabinet members attended the session. There were two abstentions.

Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah: Granted women the vote
The news agency AFP said there was a major upset when an outspoken Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Hussein al-Qallaf, changed his mind and abstained instead of supporting the vote for women.

Abdullah al-Roumi, a moderate Islamist MP who had been expected to support the bill, reportedly voted against it.

Some 120 women watched from the public gallery. Many of them wore bright orange T-shirts with the slogan "Rise Up Women 2003" - a reference to the year of the next election.

Most liberal, pro-government and Shi'ite Muslim deputies were in favour of women's rights, while the opposition camp grouped Sunni Muslim fundamentalists and tribal MPs, AFP said.

The bill came a week after MPs threw out a decree by the emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, granting women full political rights.

The decree was rejected by a margin of 41 to 21. However, the lawmakers cleared the way for parliament to decide for itself with an identical bill.

Unconstitutional

The decree was one of 60 issued by the emir soon after he dissolved Parliament in May. Elections were held in July.

Some liberals said they supported women's rights, but disapproved of the emir issuing the edict while parliament was out of session, saying it undermined their authority.

The emir has the constitutional right to pass laws on urgent matters when parliament is not in session, but the reconvened house can vote against them.

The Kuwaiti parliament is the only elected decision-making body in the Gulf Arab states.

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See also:
09 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Kuwait votes-for-women setback
17 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Kuwait's royalty backs women
09 Mar 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Gulf democracy gets boost
03 Jul 99 |  Monitoring
Election view from Kuwait media
01 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Kuwait elections go online

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