Manama: Kuwait started voting early on Saturday in parliamentary elections that will test the power of the sweltering summer heat, the long hours of fasting and the boycott calls of opposition figures in influencing turnout.
Officials said that 439,715 men and women are eligible to vote for the 309 candidates vying for the parliament’s 50 seats.
Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) said that ballot stations “have witnessed noticeable turn-up of voters since their opening at 8 am.” Many who showed up at ballot stations were young men and women, the official news agency said.
Kuwait media reported that there was “a long line of voters early in the morning”, with “significant presence of voters at the Second Constituency". The elections are held in the middle of the summer season, with forecast putting the temperature at around 50 degrees in the middle of the day, Kuna said.
Polling stations at the five electoral constituencies will remain open from 8am until 8pm and will not close for iftar, expected at 6:44pm.
Voting for the 14th parliament in Kuwait’s history will be done under the one-voter, one-vote system, introduced in December for the election of a parliament that was dissolved by the Constitutional Court in June.
Female voters outnumber the males by more than 27,000 voters. Officials said that women make up a voting bloc of 233,619 (53.12 per cent) while the number of men is 206,096 (46.87 per cent of total voters).
However, the outcome for the eight women candidates remains a mystery in the country dominated by social traditions that tend to favour males over females. Women won their political rights in May 2005, but history for them was made in 2009 when four women won seats.
The victory dynamism disappeared in 2012 when no woman won in the February parliamentary elections largely dominated by tribal and religious figures. However, women were able to make a comeback in December when three of them won seats in the national polls boycotted by the opposition after they rejected the decree that amended the controversial 2006 electoral law and slashed the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.
The bitter dispute has continued until today and several opposition figures said that they would boycott Saturday’s elections. However, some of those who boycotted in December said that they were reversing their stance after the Constitutional Court in June ruled that the decree was in line with the constitution.
Rulings by the Constitutional Court cannot be challenged, leaving almost no room for the opposition to maneuver against the elections under the one voter-one vote concept.
The elections are held in the middle of summer and 18 days into Ramadan after the country’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah issued a decree on June 26. Under Kuwait’s rules, the polls have to be held within 60 days of the dissolution of the parliament.