In the first parliamentary elections in seven years, Kuwait's male elite backed opposition candidates Tuesday who promised to use the Persian Gulf war experience to further democracy, early returns showed.
But many women are frustrated their resistance work against the Iraqi occupation did not earn them the right to vote. About 50 suffragettes who tried to enter polling stations scuffled with police.
Government critics took the first eight seats tallied and were leading in a number of others, giving them what looked to be a significant bloc in the 50-seat Parliament, according to returns reported by Kuwait Radio.
Longtime government critics like Ahmed Al-Kateeb and Abdullah Nibari, who many thought would be defeated because they made their reputations defending pan-Arab causes, won surprise victories.
One of the first victors was Hamad Al-Jouan, a lawyer campaigning from a wheelchair after he was shot and paralyzed below the waist by an unknown assailant the day after Kuwait was liberated in February 1991.
Kuwaiti men lined up Monday to cast their ballots in the election precipitated by Iraq's invasion and the Persian Gulf war in which the U.S.-led allies freed the emirate after seven months.
The emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, promised the election while in exile at the height of the gulf crisis.
Only 81,400 people, a fraction of Kuwait's 600,000 population, registered to vote. Voters must be male, over 21 and able to trace their roots in the emirate back to before 1920.