Supporters of Kuwaiti Khalaf al-Enezi, a candidate in the elections, attend a rally in Kuwait City, July 26, 2013
Supporters of Kuwaiti Khalaf al-Enezi, a candidate in the Gulf Emirate's elections, attend a gathering in Kuwait City early on July 26, 2013. Kuwaitis vote Saturday in the Gulf emirate's second parliamentary election in eight months, with opposition groups boycotting polls that are not expected to end years of bitter political dispute. © Yasser al-Zayyat - AFP
Supporters of Kuwaiti Khalaf al-Enezi, a candidate in the  elections, attend a rally in Kuwait City, July 26, 2013
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Omar Hasan, AFP
Last updated: July 27, 2013

Kuwaitis vote with little end in sight to disputes

Kuwait on Saturday awaited the results of its second parliamentary election in eight months, after day-long voting and early indications showing a higher turnout despite an opposition boycott.

No official figures were released when polling stations closed at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) but state-run Kuwait television broadcast partial figures indicating a higher turnout from December's record-low 40 percent.

The first results for the 50-seat parliament in the oil-rich emirate were expected to trickle in after midnight (2100 GMT), as ballot papers are still counted manually in Kuwait.

At some of the 100 polling centres, specially in tribal areas which boycotted the previous polls, voting was brisk while the pace was slow elsewhere amid scorching temperatures.

Information Minister Sheikh Salman Humoud Al-Sabah said after visiting a polling station earlier in the day in Jahra, west of Kuwait City, that turnout was high.

Besides opposition calls for a boycott, the sweltering heat of around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), combined with the Ramadan dawn-to-dusk Muslim fast, also affected turnout.

It was the second time the opposition had called for a boycott in protest at an electoral law that it alleges 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 Saturday's election.

"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," Eid told AFP.

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

"I am really concerned at the turn of events in the country as there will be no development without political stability, which we hope will be achieved after this election," Dr Jawad Abulhassan told AFP.

It was Kuwait's third general polls since February 2006 and the sixth in the past seven years.

Some groups that boycotted the last election -- notably the liberal National Democratic Alliance and some of the emirate's powerful tribes -- did take part on Saturday.

But only a few opposition members were among the 300 hopeful candidates.

They included eight women, the lowest number since Kuwaiti women won political rights in 2005.

Around 30 Arab election observers visited polling stations and were assisted by monitors from the Kuwait Transparency Society.

The opposition failed to mirror the support it mobilised ahead of the last election, but has remained adamant that it will not take part in a "corrupted" political system.

Just days before polling day, the authorities arrested at least four candidates and dozens of their campaign staff on suspicion of attempted vote-buying.

Although Kuwait has the Gulf's oldest elected parliament, all key government posts are held by members of the Al-Sabah dynasty which has ruled the country unchallenged for more than 250 years.

Analysts see little hope the election will bring political stability to the emirate, 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 despite an abundance of petrodollars.

"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 percent are citizens and of that 1.23 million only 440,000, aged 21 and over, are eligible to vote.

The OPEC member says it sits on 10 percent of global crude reserves and pumps around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day. It has amassed around $400 billion in assets over the past decade.

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