In the forthcoming parliamentary elections for the National Assembly, scheduled for June 6, Kuwaiti women assume a crucial role. With women accounting for around 52% of the overall electorate in Kuwait, their participation holds significant influence.
It is uncertain whether the female vote will exclusively favor female candidates, especially amidst fervent efforts by both men and women contenders to capitalize on the female vote.
Many women are often influenced by men in voting processes. In a country where tribal customs prevail, the religious aspect also exerts an influence.
After nearly 17 years since women first participated in National Assembly (parliament) elections following the establishment of political rights, the political journey for women remains fraught with risks.
According to the Central Statistics Bureau in Kuwait, the country’s population reached approximately 4.46 million people as of the beginning of 2020, with women accounting for around 51% of the total Kuwaiti citizens, which amounts to 1.365 million individuals.
The number of eligible voters in the upcoming elections is 793,646, including 386,751 men and 406,895 women, highlighting the increasing influence of the female vote in Kuwait.
Despite the significant electoral strength of women in Kuwait, their participation in political work has remained hindered.
Currently, 15 female candidates are running for parliamentary elections in 2023, out of a total of 207 candidates. In the previous elections in 2022, there were 27 female candidates out of 376 candidates.
The lack of participation is not limited to female candidates alone. Typically, the votes of female voters tend to favor male candidates in a country dominated by tribal and religious customs.
Despite the active participation of women in the 2022 elections, supported by laws that limit the influence of dominant tribal forces, prevent the impact of political money, and require voter registration based on civil ID cards, thus effectively discouraging vote-buying and vote-transfers, the results fell short of expectations.
Only two women, Aaliyah Al-Khaled and former minister Janan Boushahri, were able to achieve the desired success in reaching the parliamentary dome out of 27 female candidates.
“Kuwaiti women have reclaimed their long-denied political rights, but unfortunately, they have not achieved a representation befitting their status in the National Assembly for various reasons,” Kuwaiti academic Abdullah Sohar, Professor of International Relations at Kuwait University, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Kuwaiti academic listed “the dominance of men in social communication processes, and the traditional aspects associated with society” as reasons limiting female candidates from winning representation at the National Assembly.