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New parliament offers hope in Kuwait

Election results indicate that boycotting groups will not find the commitment and willingness to trigger a showdown with the authorities

Gulf News

The new parliament in Kuwait may offer the country a chance of more stable government after a gruelling period when there have been 13 governments in only seven years and three parliaments in only 17 months. This week’s parliamentary elections made the radicals lose out slightly to the liberals, resulting in a parliament that looks set to be more willing to work with the government appointed by the ruler.

The Liberals had no seats in the previous 50-seat parliament and they won at least three this time; while Sunni Islamists increased their score from five to seven seats; and tribal groups maintained their substantial position with 24 seats. The Shiite candidates were the big losers as their total fell to eight, from a record 17 in the previous parliament. The cabinet resigned as required by the constitution after any election and a new government will be appointed probably retaining the outgoing prime minister, Shaikh Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah. But after years of continual political crisis since 2006, the political process in Kuwait has a sense of exhausted resignation, which will make it hard for the groups which boycotted the election to build momentum for their viewpoint.

The boycotting groups included the Muslim Brotherhood and some prominent tribal figures and they will likely generate popular fury outside parliament. They will also try to challenge the parliament’s constitutional legitimacy in the courts, which seems less likely to agree to entertain such challenges to this parliament after ruling in favour of changes to the electoral law last month.

The boycotting groups want to campaign for fundamental constitutional changes, but since they refused to take part in the polls, they will have to rely on support from people on the street. After years of continual crisis, this election result is a small indication that they will not find the commitment and willingness to trigger a showdown with the authorities. It is also important that the boycott was not absolute and some opposition figures won seats in the parliament.