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Kuwait bars 39 candidates from running in elections

Former speaker rejects opposition boycott call

Image Credit: AP
Kuwait’s opposition groups gather in Erada Square in Kuwait City to protest against a controversial amendment of the electoral system, which was approved by the government last month. The activists have called for a boycott of the legislative elections scheduled for December 1 and say they are planning more rallies and demonstrations.
Gulf News

Manama: Kuwait’s national high commission for the elections has barred 39 candidates from running in the parliamentary polls next month.

The list includes former lawmakers and Kuwaitis competing for the first time for one of the 50 seats in the parliament, local media reported.

The commission, believed to have based its decision on the justice records of the candidates, is expected to hold a press conference to explain the reasons for its move.

However, the disqualification is not final and the candidates have the right to challenge it.

Officials said that 397 people this month signed up to run in the elections on December 1 and candidates have until Friday to pull out.

The figure was unexpectedly high after a slow start and amid reports that the boycott calls launched by the opposition were being followed.

The opposition has vowed to push for a national boycott of the elections after the government insisted that it would uphold an amendment to the controversial 2006 electoral law that reduced the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.

In the opposition’s view this was a clear attempt by the government to strengthen its influence and guarantee that the next parliament would be fully compliant.

However, the government said that it wanted to ensure a fairer representation of the nation in the parliament by adopting the international standard of the ‘one voter, one vote’ principle.

The deep divisions have split the nation and as the elections date approaches, each camp is seeking more supporters and followers.

The opposition said that it would take its concerns and determination directly to the people through rallies and gatherings and pressing for the boycott of the elections.

A low turnout would signify the failure of the nation’s representation in the parliament, some opposition figures have reportedly said.

A rally organised by the ‘Qatii’ (Boycott) group on Sunday evening called on Kuwaitis to stay away from election stations and to avoid casting ballots.

However, the government has persisted with its drive towards the elections as scheduled amid arguments that the next parliament could make any amendments it saw fit to the electoral system.

It also warned that it would not tolerate any move to ‘sabotage’ the elections and that it would take stringent action against abuses.

Former Speaker Jassem Al Khurafi said that the boycott calls would not affect the election process.

“We are not worried because this is democracy and there are those who support and those who oppose,” he said. “We will go ahead with the elections and we do look forward to good options in the next parliament. The people have the responsibility of electing the best to sit in the parliament,” he said.

Al Khurafi dismissed reports that the candidates were not ‘heavyweight’ and that they would undermine the importance of the parliament.

“This is Kuwait and we do have a heavy political weight. We have experts and we have icons,” he said.

The speaker of the 2009 parliament, who did not wish to run this time, said that calls to boycott the elections were not new in Kuwait.

“We had people who boycotted the elections in 1971 and we do know that the calls will not be the last to be made. This time, there are some people who want to boycott, but it is not all the people,” he said.