Byelection candidates in Third Constituency. Image Credit: Al Anba

Manama: A spokesperson for Kuwait's general directorate of elections said that 47 candidates would be vying for two seats in the parliamentary elections this weekend.

The final figure was announced following the end of the period allocated for withdrawals and the ruling out of candidacies by the committee tasked with checking the fulfilment of requirements.

The first list had 61 candidates, including five women, and the committee had until March 10 to finalise the number of contestants.

The 14 names taken off the list are all men, leaving five women to contest for the two seats.

The election directorate has contacted the representatives of the candidates and handed them the IDs that allow them to enter the polling stations, the spokesperson added.

The 47 candidates hope to replace former lawmakers Jamaan Al Harbesh in the Second Constituency and Waleed Al Tabtabaei in the Third Constituency.

Byelection candidates in Second Constituenc 01
Byelection candidates in the Second Constituency. Image Credit: Al Anba

2 unseated

The two ex-lawmakers were unseated after they were given jail sentences for their involvement in the storming of the parliament building in November 2011 during a rally calling for the resignation or removal of then-Prime Minister Shaikh Nasser Al Mohammad.

The by-elections will be held on March 16 with the results expected to be announced on the same day.

According to official figures, 62,457 voters are registered to cast their ballots in the Second Constituency and 96,528 in the Third Constituency.

Under Kuwaiti laws, candidates must be Kuwaitis and at least 30 years old. They must speak and write Arabic and must have an impeccable security record.

The winners in the by-elections will serve until the end of the term of the current parliament elected in November 2016 for four years.

Despite impressive gains accomplished by Kuwaiti women in several areas, their presence in the 50-seat parliament is limited to MP Safa Al Hashem, the lone woman winner in the last elections.

The unseating of Al Tabtabaie and Al Harbash had gripped Kuwait for months and the country needed the Constitutional Court for the denouement of the case in a historic ruling.

The two MPs, currently out of Kuwait, were among a group of 67 defendants that included 10 former and sitting lawmakers who stormed the parliament building in November 2011.

Black Wednesday incident

The incident, unprecedented in Kuwait’s history, was labelled “Black Wednesday” and caused uproar in the country. The suspects insisted they acted “without malicious intention”.

The case remained pending until December 2013 when the Criminal Court acquitted all suspects.

However, the Court of Appeals in November 2017 rejected the ruling, and sentenced the defendants to jail terms ranging from one to nine years.

Al Tabtabai and Al Harbash were sentenced to three years and six months each. The verdict was confirmed by the Cassation Court, the highest court in the country, in May last year.

However, the parliament in October and under the umbrella of Article 16 of its bylaws and after a heated debate among its members voted to keep the membership of the two lawmakers.

The case was referred to the Constitutional Court which said that Article 16 made court rulings “hostage” to the will of the parliament and was unconstitutional, annulling the parliament’s decision and ordering the two lawmakers to serve their prison terms.