Thursday, May 15, 2008

on democracy in Kuwait

Nathan Brown of Carnegie released a paper this month that helpfully explains Kuwaiti democracy - in easy-to-read-and-understand Q and A format, no less. [Side comment: as someone reared in the age of overstimulation, I certainly appreciate these little soundbites about the character of a country's political system ... but I am always a little astounded at how many there are. Doesn't a topic like this deserve a whole book?]

Anyway, Brown devotes one of his questions to addressing the effects of the redistricting (in 2006, from 25 districts to just 5) on women's chances of being elected. His view is that the redistricting did not help, and in fact hurt, the chances of having a Kuwaiti Assemblywoman. existing trends. Here is one very interesting bit:

Kuwaiti women exercised full political rights in the last parliamentary elections, voting and running as candidates for the first time. They actually constitute a majority of the electorate (56 percent of voters registered with the Ministry of Interior are women). But their voting patterns do not seem significantly different from men’s. And where they do differ, they have strengthened the Islamists. In at least one case, women voters pushed a candidate from the ICM—a movement that had opposed granting full political rights to women—to victory.

He goes on to say that, given the absence of a reliable voting bloc for a female candidate, it's unlikely that a coalition would include a woman on their slate. Head scratcher, right? Demands further reading. I get irritated with myself when I tend toward othering another group ... for example, in this case, I think, why would these silly women vote against their own interests? But at the same time, it is an important question - which positions draw the female vote? What are women's interests? One cannot take for granted that women's empowerment is important to every woman ... I have an incurable tendency to assume that of all women, and I daresay it keeps my friend group small.

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