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Kuwait’s largest tribe defies election boycott

27 opposition figures sign pledge for ballot boycott as tribe decides to participate

Gulf News

Manama: Four weeks ahead of Kuwait’s parliamentary elections, the opposition calling for their boycott was delivered a strong blow after the country’s largest tribe said that its members would participate in the national polls.

Voters in the northern Arabian Gulf country are scheduled to cast their ballots on July 25 and elect a new parliament after the Supreme Court last week dissolved the previous legislative house in a landmark ruling that also maintained the “one voter, one vote” amendment to the electoral law, a key contention point between the government and the opposition.

Unable to challenge the verdict by the country’s highest court, the opposition launched a campaign to boycott the polls and several figures have been pushing in the media for a no-show on Elections Day.

But, while 27 former opposition lawmakers signed a statement pledging to boycott the elections, the Awazem tribe, the largest in the country, agreed to participate.

“Al Awazem tribe will take part in the one-vote elections,” Shaikh Falah Bin Jamaa, the head of the tribe, said following an open vote by its members present at the dinner meeting.

Speculation had been high about the decision of the powerful tribe whether to take part in the elections, with both camps — for and against the elections — heavily relying on it to further their campaigns.

“We might have our differences and we are all aware of the situation in the country,” Shaikh Falah said. “There are two views, one supporting the elections and one against it. I have checked with our people and most of the people said that they wanted to be part of the elections,” he said.

Mohammad Al Harair, a lawyer from Al Awazem tribe who was present at the meeting, supported the call, arguing that the court verdict made it clear that voters should cast their ballots.

However, former lawmaker Falah Al Sawagh argued against the elections at the meeting.

The opposition boycotted the elections on December 1 after it was unable to annul the decree amending the electoral law and slashing the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.

In their arguments following the Constitutional Court verdict, opposition figures said that the need for the boycott has become more critical for the sake of democratic practices in the country.

Registration for the elections is expected to start following the publication of the Emiri decree calling for the elections in the official gazette, but several former lawmakers have already said that they would run as candidates.

Under Kuwait’s laws, a candidate must be at least 30 years old, be able to read and write and have a “good reputation”.