Lessons from the Kuwaiti Election in today’s Arab News is an interesting article that outlines why the struggle for the political participation of women in Saudi Arabia must continue even through slow progress.
In an article for Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper, Hatoon Al-Fassi wrote about Saudi Arabia’s municipality elections that are set to take place at the end of next year. She reminded readers of the outcome of the first elections and the fact that, for several reasons, women did not vote in them.
The official reason was that having women candidates was going to be the second step after establishing the idea of elections and, as far as women voters were concerned, it was said that there were no facilities for women at the polling stations. Whatever we choose to believe, the fact remains that women were not part of the experience and now, a full year before the second municipal elections, women’s voices are being heard, demanding that this time they be allowed to participate.
It is anyone’s guess as to what will happen but Saudi women need to look closely at the Kuwaiti experience in order to gain more insight into women and elections. In the wake of the recent Kuwaiti elections, we are left with many facts to consider. One of these is that despite their large numbers, Kuwaiti women failed to put their candidates into Parliament.
We are told that women amount to 58 percent of Kuwait’s voters which should have given them a better than average chance of electing members to Parliament – but it didn’t happen. Among the reasons analysts cite is that women don’t have much of a chance in a tribal society; another point is that many women voters do not support women candidates.
Yet some point out the fact that one woman managed to get 5,000 votes – which might reflect a change on the way in Kuwait. Many say that women’s political experience is still limited and that things will take time but that the day will come when women are elected to Parliament.
How much of this can we relate to Saudi women? How much is applicable to us?
We need to bear in mind that women – whether Kuwaiti or Saudi – are not the most dedicated supporters of women’s demands and women’s rights. In fact, there are many women in the Kingdom who are strongly opposed to women’s participation in politics. Realistic thought suggests that the situation will remain the way it is for some time.
In other words, women might not get their deserved chance next time around. That does not mean, however, that we should stop calling for our rights or working for them.
We have to keep up the momentum, remain united in our aims and realize that the changes are well worth the fight needed to obtain them.
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