Image: Kuwaiti women wait for their turn to vote
Zohra Bensemra  /  Reuters
Kuwaiti women wait to vote at a polling station in Kuwait City on Thursday. Kuwaitis picked a new parliament with women running for elections and casting ballots for the first time.
updated 6/30/2006 7:01:16 AM ET 2006-06-30T11:01:16

Kuwait’s first parliamentary elections in which women could vote were a victory for political reformists but a disappointment for female candidates, none of whom won a seat, according to official results Friday.

Thirty-six of those who won seats in the 50-seat house were reformists, according to results of Thursday’s vote published by the state-owned Kuwait News Agency. Twenty-one of them held seats in the previous parliament that the emir, Kuwait’s ruler, dissolved last month.

There were 27 women running in the elections, but it was not immediately possible to tell how close any of them came to winning because the comprehensive vote count had not been released.

Women, who won the right to vote and run for office in the small oil-rich state last year, had few weeks to prepare for the vote after the emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, disbanded the house because he believed a dispute over electoral precincts was harming national unity.

Female voters accounted for 57 percent of the electorate. No official figures on voter turnout were immediately released.

“Society will need time to accept women,” activist Iqbal al-Ahmed told Kuwait TV late Thursday when initial results showed that most female hopefuls were faring poorly.

“I am disappointed,” she added.

Women arriving to vote in some districts were presented with roses and escorted into the polling stations under umbrellas to shield them from the scorching 108-degree heat.

The election sparked a surprisingly strong campaign for reform in Kuwait, where the ruling Al Sabah family has long headed the government and maintains a strong influence on politics.

Reformist candidates — who include Islamic fundamentalists and secular activists — spoke out harshly against corruption, accusing ministers and even members of the ruling family of mismanagement and wasting state land.

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