Kuwait City: As the 2020 Kuwait National Assembly elections are approaching, candidates are beginning to campaign for a seat in parliament. In an effort to support women running for office, Mudhawi’s list, an online platform, just launched in time to highlight women running in the 2020 National Assembly election.
Mudhawi’s List aims to support women running for elected office positions by linking them with volunteers and in kind donations providers through their platform, in order to assist them with essential campaign services. In addition, the platform aims to raise awareness about the importance of women in leadership positions.
“Another main disadvantage women have in comparison to men when running for elected office positions is their limited access to diwaniya’s, as they are a male-dominated space,” Al Awadhi added.
While the platform was just launched two weeks ago, they already have around 1,300 followers across Twitter and Instagram.
“We named the platform Mudhawi, an old and traditional Khaleeji name, as we wanted to give it an identity. When you think of the name Mudhawi you think of the sister, mother, supporter and wise woman. We want all women running to know that Mudhawi is here to help and support her,” Al Awadhi explained.
Mudhawi’s List was launched in time for the 2020 National Assembly election, but aims to assist women running in all elected office positions. While women are eligible to run and vote for all elected office posts from the municipal elections to the local cooperative society elections, they are not allowed to vote in the informal primary elections.
Although the informal primary elections are deemed illegal under Kuwaiti law, they are commonly held prior to a general election. Since the Kuwaiti political scene lacks political parties, tribes organise informal elections in order to rally their constituents behind a certain parliamentary candidate, who is usually from the same tribe.
Who are the women running for parliament?
On November 28, around 574,000 eligible Kuwaitis will cast their vote for one candidate from their electoral district. Although the registration for candidates has not yet opened, so far there is at least one woman running in each electoral district, except the fourth district.
In the first district, there are three women running. The third district has the highest number of female candidates, totalling seven. In both the second and fifth district, only one female candidate is running in each electoral district.
Due to the informal primaries and the tribe’s control over elections, it is less common to see a large number of women running in the fourth and fifth district.
Given that candidates can announce their candidacy closer to the election date, it is possible that more women candidates will be on the voting ballot.
History of women participation in National Assembly elections
On May 16, 2005 the election law No 35 of 1962 was amended, therefore granting women the right to vote and run for office.
Although the 2006 elections were the first time women were able to vote and run for parliament, out of the 28 running, none were elected.
Then three years later, in 2009, four women, Aseel Al Awadhi, Rola Dashti, Massouma Al Mubarak and Salwa Al Jassar, won seats in the National Assembly, the first time ever in Kuwait’s history
In 2012, two general elections were held, one in February and another in December, both of which were dissolved. In the February 2012 elections, there were 24 women running for parliament, out of which none won. While the voter turnout in the December 2012 election was at all time low, around 43 per cent due to a large boycott movement, two women won seats in the National Assembly. One of the women, Dhikra Al Rashidi, won in the fourth district, a predominantly ‘tribal’ district.
The last parliamentary election was in 2016, where only one woman, Safaa Al Hashem, won a seat. Al Hashem is the longest sitting woman in parliament.
In terms of voting, women can vote as long as they have registered. According to Kuwaiti law, one must be over 21 years old and a registered voter in order to participate in a general election. Currently, only 20 per cent of eligible women are registered to vote.
While it’s been 15 years since women have been allowed to partake in elections, they make up only 2 per cent of female representation in parliament.
Female participation in whole
While women are eligible to run and vote in the legislative branch, they are also appointed to leadership positions in the executive and judicial branches. So far, female representation in appointed positions stands at 12 per cent.
In terms of women in the judicial branch, June 30 was a historic day for Kuwaiti women, as the public prosecution appointed eight female prosecutors to the position of judges, the first time women have been allowed to take up roles in the judiciary. Out of six GCC countries, Kuwait is the fourth country to appoint women to the position of judges.
2005 was an important year for Kuwaiti women as it was the year they were granted the right to vote, as well as the first time a Kuwaiti woman, Massouma Al Mubarak, was appointed to a ministerial position. Currently, there are two women serving in the executive branch, one being Mariam Al Aqeel, the Minister of Social Affairs and Rana Al Fares, Minister of Public Works and Housing Affairs.
Kuwait has yet to establish a quota system in order to increase the number of women in leadership positions.