Kuwaitis vote for 26 new MPs, hoping change

Kuwaitis vote for 26 new MPs, hoping change
Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:59:12

Final results of the vote counting in Kuwait’s general elections are out with 26 new faces in the parliament, reflecting the desire of Kuwaiti voters for change in the hope of an end to ongoing political crisis.

The final results showed early Sunday that liberals also made slight gains by securing three seats in the new 50-member parliament. Sunni groups won seven seats in the parliament while Shias got to keep 6 of their previous 17 seats.

Figures indicated that 52.5 percent of Kuwaitis took part in the elections, compared to December’s record low of 40 percent.

Most opposition groups boycotted the Saturday elections in protest against an amended electoral law that allows the ruling Al-Sabah family to change the voting rule to one vote per person, instead of the previous four votes.

The opposition says the new amendment paves the way for manipulation of the results of the elections and subsequent legislation.

They had also boycotted the last parliamentary vote that was held in December.

About 440,000 people were eligible to elect 50 legislators from among 321 hopefuls in the elections.

The elections came a month after the constitutional court dissolved the loyalist-dominated parliament, citing flaws in the procedures leading to the elections of December 2012.

Since May 2006, Kuwait has seen the formation of about a dozen cabinets.

Under Kuwait’s 1962 constitution, the ruling family holds key posts including the premiership and the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs.

Although Kuwait was the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf to establish an elected parliament in 1962, the Al Sabah family has remained in control of key posts. The family has enjoyed unchallenged power for over 200 years.

Opposition boycott

The higher turnout in latest polls in Kuwait came despite sweltering summer heat of 45 degrees Celsius, Muslim Ramadan fasting, and calls by the opposition to boycott the ballots.

It was the second time the opposition had called for a boycott in protest at an electoral law that it says enables the ruling Al-Sabah family-controlled government to manipulate the outcome.

The law was ruled legal in June by the constitutional court, even though it dissolved parliament on procedural flaws, and ordered the fresh polls.

Saturday's election was the sixth in the oil-rich emirate over the past seven years.

“I just hope this parliament completes its [four-year] term,” said civil aviation employee Bassam Eid, after voting in Al-Qasia. "We are frustrated at the repeated dissolution of the house,” he told AFP.

The last two parliaments were dissolved by the constitutional court on procedural grounds, while previous parliaments were dissolved by the emir.

None of the Kuwaiti parliaments elected from 2003 onward has completed its full four-year term.

The first elections in Kuwait were held in 1963, two years after the country's independence.

Analysts, however, see little hope the election will bring political stability to the country, which has been rocked by lingering disputes since mid-2006 - when about a dozen cabinets were formed and voters went to the ballot five times - stalling development.

“I think the root of the problem is the unwillingness of some sections of the Al-Sabah ruling family to see an elected parliament,” analyst Anwar al-Rasheed said ahead of the polls.

Of Kuwait's population of 3.9 million, just 31 per cent are citizens and of that 1.23 million only 440,000, aged 21 and over, are eligible to vote.


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