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Religious hard-liners gain in Kuwait election

KUWAIT CITY — Muslim hard-liners made strong gains in Kuwait's parliamentary elections while female candidates failed once again to win any seats, official results showed Sunday.

Religious conservatives, both Sunnis and Shiites, gained two seats to hold 24 — nearly half of the 50-member parliament, according to results read on state-owned Kuwait Television.

Westernized liberals kept their four seats and came close to sending the first woman to the parliament of this small, oil-rich U.S. ally. Aseel al-Awadi, a 39-year-old philosophy teacher, was 11th in her district. The top 10 were declared winners.

Elections were held after relations between the Cabinet and parliament broke down and Kuwait's ruler dissolved the legislature in March. The outcome of Saturday's polls doesn't bode well for ending those tensions.

Kuwaitis voted mostly along tribal and sectarian lines, bringing back incumbents who promised them salary increases and vowed to use public money to forgive consumer debt — moves bitterly opposed by the government.

Those lawmakers are likely to continue squabbling with the government, which plans to overhaul the country's economy with unpopular measures like introducing an income tax and privatizing services that have been heavily subsidized for decades.

"We're back to square one," said Shamlan al-Issa, a political science teacher at Kuwait University.

Women won the right to vote in Kuwait in 2005 and accounted for about 55 percent of the more than 361,000 voters, but none of the 27 female candidates Saturday made it to parliament. "We expected Kuwaiti voters to be more aware," said Najla al-Naqi, 42, a lawyer who ran for a seat.

Religious hard-liners gain in Kuwait election 05/18/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:00pm]
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