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Kuwait grants women right to vote


KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (CNN) -- The Kuwaiti parliament has voted to give women the right to vote and to run for office -- if they observe Islamic laws.

"We finally passed the law for women's right to vote and run for office," Mohammed Jassem al-Sager, a member of parliament, said on Monday.

"This is one of the greatest achievements of all time in the Kuwaiti political arena."

The government of the tiny emirate had been pushing for parliament to approve the law.

"We made it. This is history," prominent activist Roula al-Dashti told reporters. "Our target is the parliamentary polls in 2007. I'm starting my campaign from today."

Outside parliament, young women and men danced and cheered, Reuters reported, while passing drivers hooted horns in support.

The next parliamentary elections in Kuwait -- the first opportunity for women to run -- are two years away.

The state-sanctioned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said the vote was 35 in favor, 23 against and one abstention.

According to KUNA, the law states that "a Kuwaiti woman, voting and running for political office, should do so while fully adhering to the dictates of Islamic Sharia" or Islamic law.

Currently, only men 21 years old and not members of the police and military are allowed to vote. With the passage of the new law, the number of eligible voters is expected to jump from appoximately 139,000 to around 339,000.

CNN Producer Kianne Sadeq contributed to this report.

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