Vienna, 18 May 2009 Press release

Plassnik: "A clear signal of irreversible change in Kuwait"

Four women are elected to the parliament for the first time

Vienna, 18 May 2009 – Today, Ursula Plassnik described the outcome of the parliamentary elections in the emirate as "good and encouraging news for the women of Kuwait". Four women managed to win seats in the 50-member parliament. Plassnik, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for international women’s issues commented: "The result represents a deepening of democratisation, and confirms the important role of Kuwait as a pioneer for women’s rights in the Gulf States.In 2005, the women of Kuwait were granted the right to vote. All female candidates failed during the two elections in 2006 and 2008, in part because they did not receive enough time and presentation opportunities for a serious election campaign."

Plassnik added: "This time, the female candidates received sufficient support by women and men, a clear signal for what is hopefully an irreversible change." Prior to the elections, a hardline Sunnite movement had urged the citizens not to vote for women. The fact that the more radical Islamist movements performed badly at the elections shows that the population does not see their course as suitable for the future.

Plassnik, who last visited Kuwait in 2007 and met with women activists there, concluded by saying that "We are aware that, especially in the Gulf Region, there is still a long way to go on the road to a significant inclusion of women in the political decision-making process. Despite this, we should be pleased with these important signals: Women as members of parliament must slowly become a normality. They are not only role models, but also role models for other women. And they demonstrate to both men and women that they can make valuable contributions in the public realm to the future of their countries."

Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs
Press Department
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213