King Hamad greeting Fawzia Zainal Image Credit: BNA

Manama: Bahrain has become the third Arab country to have a woman president of the parliament.

The UAE was the first in 2015 and Syria was the second one year later.

Fawzia Zainal made the breakthrough in Bahrain’s history on Wednesday evening after she was voted in by the members of the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament.

Fawzia received 25 votes while the two other contenders Adel Assoomi and Eisa Al Kooheji got 13 and two respectively.

Her outstanding triumph was enhanced by the fact that she is a first time law-maker, unlike Al Assomi who has been representing the First Constituency of the Capital since 2006 and Al Kohheji, the representative of the Fifth Constituency in Muharraq since 2010.

Fawzia in the 2018 elections embodied the perseverance and strong determination of Bahraini women. She ran a first time in 2006 and lost, but she went ahead again in 2014 and once again could not win. During both campaigns, she had to put up with strong competition from conservative forces. Some of her billboard posters were defamed and her tent headquarters was set ablaze.

Yet, she was among the first Bahrainis to announce her candidacy in 2018 and this time, she breezed through the first round on November 24 and carried her con-stituency.

Fawzia has benefitted from the statements that insisted it was time for Bahraini women to lead the parliament based on the “vast experiences they accumulated over years of being members.”

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The first woman, Lateefa Al Gaood, was elected in 2006 after an unsuccessful bid in 2002 when the first elections were held following a three-decade hiatus and the promulgation of a constitution that allowed women to vote and run.

Lateefa and three other women were lawmakers in the 2010-2014 parliament. The number dropped to three in the 2014-2018 legislative term, but reached a record number of six in the new term.

“I thank you profusely for your trust in me,” Fawzia said after she was declared after she was declared Speaker. “Your votes mean a lot to me and we should all work together to turn the promises and pledges we made during the electoral campaigns a reality on the ground. Our logos and mottos should become facts.”

In his speech at the opening of the new term of the parliament, King Hamad paid rich tribute to women.

“We highlight the leading role of Bahraini women that has contributed to shaping our contemporary civil state, moving beyond the stage of empowerment, support and right-claiming rights, to the stage of advanced and responsible presence in which they enjoy full human rights and work alongside men on the basis of balanced partnership towards development,” he said.