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June 27, 2006

Good News from the Arab World
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Finaly, good news from a region that loves bad news. If you doubt the transformative power of democracy, I suggest you read this article on the increasingly important role of women in Kuwaiti politics. In May 2005, parliament, after a long, arduous battle, granted women the right to vote. Today, 13 months later, hardline Islamists - who for years had fought tooth and nail against women's suffrage - are aggressively reaching out to women and courting their votes. When women represent more than 50% of the electorate, then even hardline conservatives will have no choice but to bow to electoral imperatives. Kuwaiti Islamists, like everyone else, want to win elections - and they can't win without the support of women. Even in the most traditional, tribal societies, democracy's power cannot be denied. One reason, among many, why Americans must not lose faith in promoting democracy abroad. Choice quote:

Hundreds of voters gathered Saturday night in a cavernous wedding hall in a conservative suburb of Kuwait City to hear Walid al-Tabtabaei, an incumbent Islamist candidate, give one of his last speeches before the parliamentary elections on Thursday. The voters compared notes on candidates and debated their merits. One thing set them apart from the voters who attended political rallies in past elections here, though: almost all were women. "The M.P.'s used to vote against us; now they are wooing us to vote for them," said Lulua Abdullah al-Omari, a mother of four, who sat in the front row and was eager to talk politics. "Women suddenly have more value in this society."


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