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Kuwait poll touted as ‘defeat of extremists’

Liberals make slight gains in second election in eight months

  • AFP
  • Published: 12:15 July 28, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Kuwaiti Shiite candidate and former MP Yousef al-Zalzalah (C) celebrates with his supporters following his victory in the parliamentary elections in Kuwait City early on July 28, 2013.

Kuwait City: 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, in a major blow to radicals.

The final results, released early Sunday by judicial authorities, showed Shiite candidates winning just eight seats in the 50-member parliament. Shiite candidates had won a record 17 in the previous house elected in December but scrapped in a court ruling last month. Shiites form around 30 per cent of Kuwait’s native population of 1.23 million.

The official figures also recorded a significant rise in turnout. According to figures posted on the information ministry website, voter turnout was 52.5 per cent, compared to December’s record low of 40 per cent due to opposition boycott. Average turnout at Kuwaiti polls is around 65 per cent. Some groups who had boycotted the previous polls chose to take part this time, in particular Bedouin tribes and liberal groups.

“I think that the main success in this election is the failure of Shiite and Sunni radicals to get re-elected,” director of Etijahat Research and Studies Centre Talal Al Kashti told AFP.

At least two Shiite and two Sunni religious radicals, who were accused of inciting sectarian tension, failed in their bid for re-election. “The composition of this parliament is representative of various components of the Kuwaiti society. Accordingly, I believe it will be very quiet ... and will cooperate with the government,” said Al Kashti.

Liberals, Shiites, Sunni Islamists, merchant and almost all Bedouin tribes have representatives in parliament. 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 and tribal groups have maintained their strength of 24 seats.

“The election results are surprising as a number of veterans lost their seats in favour of young MPs. There was a big retreat for controversial figures,” political analyst Madhi Al Khamees wrote on his Twitter account.

Al Kashti said unlike the previous six parliaments which were dissolved due to political disputes, “it looks promising this parliament could complete its four-year term”.

The higher turnover came despite sweltering summer heat in the desert nation as the mercury hit 45 degrees Celsius; Ramadan fasting; and calls by the opposition to boycott the ballots. Only two women were elected compared to three in the previous parliament. And 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.

The opposition had called for a boycott in protest against the government’s amendment of the key electoral law, even though it was upheld by the constitutional court. The opposition says the amendment enabled the government to manipulate the outcome of polls.

Al Kashti said it appears from the election results and voter turnout that the opposition had lost some of its popular appeal. Kuwait was the first nation in the Gulf to adopt parliamentary democracy in 1962. Parliament enjoys legislative and monitoring powers but the government is formed from outside elected MPs and is headed by a senior member of the Al Sabah ruling family. The cabinet is expected to resign later Sunday as required by the constitution after every election to clear the way to form a new government.

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