Manama: Bahraini women have achieved a new milestone after two more women won in the parliamentary by-elections, taking the total number of women in the lower chamber to four.
Ebtisam Hijris and Somaya Al Jowder on Saturday evening became the first two women to carry their constituencies through the ballot box.
Lateefa Al Gaood, the first woman in the Arabian Gulf to be voted in a legislative body in 2006, was unopposed in her quest. In 2010, she kept her seat in the absence of competitors in her constituency.
Early last month, Sawsan Taqawi, the women's sports expert, became the first Shiite woman to reach the lower house after her competitors pulled out of the race.
According to the results announced by the justice minister late in the evening at the end of the second round of the by-elections, Ebtisam beat Hisham Al Alawi 366 to 312 while Somaya got 1,725 votes against 1,660 for her competitor Usama Al Khaja.
The victories were celebrated with great fanfare at the City Centre general polling stations and the winners were joined by fellow MP Sawsan Taqawi and Fatima Al Beloushi, the human rights and social development minister, one of the two government women members. Shaikha May Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa who has the culture portfolio is the second woman minister.
With women making up 10 per cent of the 40-member lower chamber, rights activists hope that they will be able to make the positive changes to boost the political empowerment of women.
The upper chamber, also made up of 40 members, has 11 women. All the members are appointed by the king.
The by-elections were held over two rounds, on September 24 and October 1, to fill the seats vacated by Al Wefaq when its 18 members resigned in late February to protest against the handling of demonstrators.
Al Wefaq and other political formations boycotted the by-elections and demanded more powers for the lower chamber.
Al Wefaq boycotted the parliamentary elections in 2002, but achieved landslide victories in 2006 and 2010, securing 17 and 18 seats respectively.
None of the candidates presented by Al Wefaq or the other two leading religious societies, Al Asala and the Islamic Menbar, who took part in the three legislative elections in Bahrain's modern history, was a woman.
Results of the second round of the by-elections:
Constituency Three: Ebtisam Abdulrahman Hijris (366 votes) beat Hisham Abdulghafar Al Alawi (312)
Constituency Four: Ali Abbas Shamtoot (148) beat Abbas Abdullah Seraj (114) Constituency Eight: Jamal Mohammad Abdullah (430) beat Kadhim Ahmad Al Owainati (190)
Constituency One: Somaya Abdul Rahman Al Jowder (1,725) beat Usama Abdulhameed Al Khaja (1,610)
Constituency Two: Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Sa'ati (595) beat Sameeh Ebrahim Rajab (441)
Constituency Five: Usama Jaber Muhanna (443) beat Ebrahim Ali Al Asfoor (417)
Constituency One: Ali Hassan Ali (831) beat Ali Ahmad Al Haddad (442)
Constituency Seven: Khalid Jassim Al Malood (2,018) beat Abdul Hamid Abdul Hussain Mohammed (1,519)
Constituency Eight: Mohammad Salim Buqais (2,340) beat Seema Ahmad Al Langawi (2,092).