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Kuwait Emir to comply with elections ruling

Kuwaitis urged to cast ballots instead of wailing and causing disturbances

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 13:09 November 22, 2012
  • Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s Emir has pledged to accept a ruling by the Constitutional Court on his amendment of the 2006 electoral law.

“Regarding a reported move by some Kuwaitis to challenge the amendment decree, I do laud this civil tendency and declare before the people of Kuwait that I accept the decision by the Constitutional Court even if it is contrary to my assessment,” Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad said. “Our respect for and appreciation of the judicial system are steady and definite and our commitment to implementing its provisions is genuine. We will accept any court decision willingly. Upholding what is right is a virtue,” the Emir said on Wednesday as he received a delegation of professors and academics.

Kuwait has been sourly divided after the Constitutional Court dismissed the parliament elected in February and reinstated the legislative house voted in last February.

The court ruled that the decrees dismissing the 2009 parliament and the calling for elections in February were unconstitutional.

However, the reinstated parliament failed to convene and the government sought to amend the 2006 electoral law by changing the five constituencies and reducing the number of ballots a vote can cast.

The Emir issued a decree that did not affect the constituencies, but reduced the number of candidates a voter can elect from four to one.

The government argued that the new system would ensure a fairer representation of the nation in parliament, recently dominated by Islamists and tribal figures.

In the 2012 parliament, they held 35 of the 50 seats.

However, the opposition said that the amendment would ensure the election of a more government-friendly parliament and vowed to seek to change it.

Two public rallies were held in October and November, but both ended in clashes between demonstrators and police as well as injuries on both sides.

A third rally is planned for November 30, hours before the nation is scheduled to elect 50 MPs.

The opposition has also been pushing for a boycott of the elections in a bid to secure a low turnout that would cast doubts on the merit of the new parliament.

Reports emerged that some figures took the amendment decree to the Constitutional Court to declare it unconstitutional.

The tense situation between those who supported and those who opposed the elections has caused unprecedented unease in the country.

“I am, just like you, pained by the tension gripping our country and society these days,” the Emir said. “When we look at the causes and nature of the differences, we do praise God that they are not related to an abuse of our essential concepts or an assault on our values of justice, freedom or equality or a transgression of our constitution, laws or national ideals. The differences are related to a decree that amended the electoral system and that was issued by the head of the state based on his national responsibilities and his clear prerogatives as stipulated by the constitution. I have assessed the need to address a defect that has spoiled the electoral system. Its negative aspects were proven during three consecutive parliaments,” he said.

Shaikh Sabah said that it was his national duty and constitutional right to make decisions that serve the nation’s interests, security and stability within the confines of the constitution and laws.

“That’s what I did in the absence of the parliament. The constitution has guaranteed the right to challenge the decree at the Constitutional Court,” he said. “In addition, the constitution states that the decree be reviewed by the next parliament at its first session and the lawmakers have the right to endorse it or to reject it. The MPs have an additional third option by filing a motion to amend the electoral system,” he said.

Shaikh Sabah insisted that emergency decrees were not a traditional law or an absolute right and there were invariably under the sight of the parliament and the view of the Constitutional Court.

“I do state loud and clear that I do accept the ruling by the Constitutional Court and the decision by the parliament. So where is the problem? Where is the great tragedy that has prompted calls to take to the street? Why is there chaos and riots and why do we have all the screaming and wailing? Why are the state businesses disrupted and the people’s interests harmed? Is the street the best place to discuss these matters, and do such tense conditions allows us to reach the best solutions? Why is there so much negativity and why do we have calls for the boycott of the elections? Be positive and do take part in the elections by choosing the best candidates.”

For the Emir, aged 83, Kuwaitis should devote their time and energy to addressing increasing challenges and lurking dangers.

“We have formidable challenges and ominous dangers around us, such as combating corruption, a comprehensive overhaul of the state agencies, the education system, public services, health, electricity, water, transport, roads, thousands of houses, thousands of annual employment opportunities for our sons and daughters,” he said. “We also have the duty to protect our country from lurking dangers, from the earthquakes rocking the Arab world and the threats that are about to turn our region into a bloody conflict area. We want to have the time and the energy to confront these challenges and threats and not to be preoccupied with artificial crises and internal disturbances,” Shaikh Sabah said.

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