India has elected a woman as the country’s president for the first time. Pratibha Patil, nominee for the ruling Congress Party and its political allies, took nearly two-thirds of the vote for what is mainly considered a ceremonial post. Voting was restricted to members of parliament and state politicians. She easily defeated the current vice president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the candidate for the opposition.
Although Patil’s success is being seen as another step forward for the position of women in India, her bid for the job has been dogged by controversy. Her comments calling for Indian women to abandon headscarves were criticised by Muslim leaders and her emergence on to the national political scene drew attention to several financial scandals involving her family.