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Women protest Kuwait elections

Kuwait's male elite jammed polling stations for the country's first elections in seven years Monday, many hoping the results will speed Kuwait's democratic reform and reconstruction in the wake of the Persian Gulf war.

But many women are especially frustrated their resistance work against the Iraqi occupation did not earn them the right to vote. About 50 suffragettes scuffled with police when they tried to enter polling stations.

The 1991 gulf war did not change the strict voting rules in the oil-rich emirate. Only males over 21 who can trace their ancestry back 72 years are allowed to vote, limiting the voting pool to about 81,500 men from a population of 650,000 Kuwaitis.

Voters generally said they leaned toward younger, highly educated candidates who would reinforce democracy.

The 278 candidates running for 50 seats said most voters want Kuwait secured from another invasion and see a strong Parliament as the first step.

There were no exit polls or projections when voting ended at 8 p.m., and ballot boxes were sealed with wax to be transported to the central counting area in each district.

"We lived through the war and we noticed what is good, what is bad. We are applying what the younger generation has learned. That is the difference in this election," said Ra'id al-Essa, 33, a businessman.

The ruling emir, Sheik Jabir al-Ahmed al-Sabah, suspended parliament in 1986 for its criticism of royal ministers. Many expect this parliament to define the balance of power between the ruling family and the people.

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