Kuwait City, Kuwait Thousands of Kuwaiti women rejoiced Thursday as they voted for the first time in historic parliamentary elections, though early results indicated they threw their newfound electoral power behind incumbent men rather than taking chances on first-time female contenders.
Black-draped women clapped and chanted outside several polling stations, celebrating as Kuwait joined the long-awaited spread of women's suffrage throughout the conservative Persian Gulf. Women's participation helped boost voter turnout past 80 percent in some of the districts, though none of the 27 female candidates was ahead in their districts, according to incomplete results aired Thursday night on Kuwaiti television.
Rula Dashti, considered a symbol of the battle for women's suffrage, had garnered just 61 votes in her district in early returns.
The Kuwaiti parliament last year granted women full political rights, and female candidates prepared to run in elections scheduled for 2007. When a dispute on electoral reform paralyzed the government, the Kuwaiti emir dissolved the legislature in May and held early elections.