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Record Number of Women Running in Kuwaiti Elections

Thirty-three women, a record number, will be among the 395 candidates for 50 of 65 seats in parliament as Kuwaitis go to the polls on December 5. Multiple female candidates are running for positions in four of the five electoral districts. Kuwait gave women the right to vote and run for office in 2005. In the last election, in 2016, 15 women ran, although only one garnered enough votes to sit in parliament. The 2020 elections are the first since long-time ruler Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah died on September 29. These elections are also the first since 2003 to be held following the assembly’s successfully finishing a full term without dissolution by the emir. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kuwaiti electioneering has changed: Gone are the lavish public gatherings with plentiful food and drink that candidates relied on to meet, greet and convince voters. This year, electioneering has moved online to platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Zoom. Economic and social reform are top election topics, yet analysts predict that Kuwaitis will still mostly vote along tribal and familial lines. Kuwait’s parliament, unlike many others in the region, is not a rubber stamp for the country’s rulers and thus makes its voice heard, particularly regarding the country’s deepening financial difficulties due to lower oil revenues, the main source of Kuwaiti income.