Judges and their aides count the ballots at a polling station in Kuwait City on July 27, 2013
Judges and their aides count the ballots at a polling station in Kuwait City on July 27, 2013. Kuwait's Shiite minority lost more than half of their seats and liberals made slight gains in the Gulf state's second polls in eight months. © Yasser al-Zayyat - AFP
Judges and their aides count the ballots at a polling station in Kuwait City on July 27, 2013
AFP
Last updated: July 28, 2013

Shiites main losers in Kuwait polls as liberals gain

Kuwait's Shiite minority lost more than half of their seats, while liberals made slight gains in the Gulf state's second polls in eight months, official results showed.

The final results also recorded a significant rise in turnout on the previous election, the result of which was controversially scrapped in a court ruling last month.

While Shiite candidates won a record 17 seats in December, this time around they managed only eight seats in the 50-member parliament. Shiites form around 30 percent of Kuwait's native population of 1.23 million.

Figures posted on the information ministry website also showed that voter turnout was 52.5 percent, compared to December's record low of 40 percent.

Some groups who had boycotted the previous polls chose to take part this time, in particular Bedouin tribes and liberal groups such as the National Democratic Alliance.

The liberals, who had no seat in the previous parliament, won at least three this time. Sunni Islamists increased their presence from five to seven seats.

The higher turnover came despite sweltering summer heat in the desert emirate as the mercury hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), Muslim Ramadan fasting and calls by the opposition to boycott the ballot.

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 Saturday's election.

The new parliament includes as many as 26 new faces, reflecting the desire of Kuwaiti voters for change in the hope of an end to ongoing political crises.

This election is the sixth in the oil-rich emirate over the past seven years.

"I just hope this parliament completes its (four-year) term," civil aviation employee Bassam Eid said Saturday 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.

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. In the end, only two women were elected to parliament, compared to three in the previous parliament.

While the opposition failed to generate the support it mobilised ahead of the last election, it remained adamant that it would 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.

It 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.

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

blog comments powered by Disqus