Kuwait sets elections for May 16


 The announcement came after the weekly Cabinet meeting. "The Cabinet approved a draft decree to elect members of parliament on Saturday May 16," state news agency KUNA cited Cabinet Affairs Minister of State Faisal Al-Hajji as saying. The decree will be issued by HH the Amir and will become immediately effective after its publicatio
n in the official gazette, probably today.

The registration of candidates starts one day after the decree’s publication in the official gazette, according to the elections law. Candidate registration will continue for 10 days including public holidays and weekends and then withdrawal of candidates will continue until four days before the election date.

Undersecretary of Kuwait’s Interior Ministry Lt Gen Ahmad Al-Rujaib received senior officials of the security services yesterday to review the preparations for the elections. Briefing reporters after the meeting Al-Rujaib said his ministry has mobilized all its human, technical and material resources for the elections. The ministry is striving to ensure an orderly and smooth electoral process that "meets the civilized picture and the international status of Kuwait," he said.

The top leaders of the ministry issued strict directives to the concerned departments to facilitate the procedures of registration and voting for the convenience of both candidates and voters," Al-Rujaib affirmed. All necessary precautionary measures have been adopted to protect security and maintain the rule of law at voting stations nationwide, he added.

Any attempts to infringe on the voting process or violate the law and public security before or after the announcement of results will be met by an immediate and strict response," he warned. Al-Rujaib urged for concerted efforts by all concerned departments as well as citizens to make "this national event" a "becoming occasion in the history of Kuwait’s democracy.

The new elections were called after the Amir dissolved the National Assembly due to a dispute between the government and MPs. It will be the second election in a year as the previous polls were held on May 17 last year, also after the Assembly was dissolved for a similar reason. It will also be the third general elections in the past three years, all coming after dissolving the Assembly over disputes between the government and MPs.

The past three years have seen the resignation of five cabinets and the dissolution of three assemblies as the country has been rocked by a series of political crises. The latest Assembly was dissolved by the Amir on March 18 after three requests were filed by Islamist MPs to grill Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah over allegations of mismanagement, misuse of public funds by his office and demolishing of illegally-built makeshift mosques.

The elections will be conducted like the previous one on the basis of five electoral districts and each constituency will elect 10 MPs for the 50-member house. Each voter will be allowed to vote for a maximum of four candidates. The government yesterday issued another decree to allow voters to use their nationality ID to vote instead of the special election cards.

According to election law, candidates must be at least 30 years old, be able to read and write Arabic and have no previous criminal record unless they have been rehabilitated. Women, who won their political rights in 2005, incidentally on the same day of the elections, will be participating in their third elections after 2006 and 2008 as voters as well as candidates.

In the previous two elections, a total of 54 females ran as candidates but none of them made it to the Assembly, although liberal candidate Aseel Al-Awadhi came close in 11th place in last year’s elections. Awadhi is also contesting this year’s polls backed by the National Democratic Alliance in the third constituency, where another female candidate, Rula Dashti, will also be running.

So far, about six members of the dissolved Assembly have said they will not bid for re-election, prominent among them former liberal MP Mohammad Al-Saqer. Many former members have not yet made their decision. Observers and analysts expect a more than 50 percent change in the Assembly members because of the dramatic events that surrounded the political scene in the past 10 months.

The last Assembly lasted for only 10 months, a record low for any of the previous 12 parliaments since Kuwait embraced parliamentary democracy in 1962. Of the 12 assemblies, two were suspended for a total of 11 years while four were dissolved and fresh elections held within the stipulated period of two months.

In another development, the public prosecution extended for another day the detention of trade union leader and candidate Khaled Al-Tahous who was arrested last week over allegedly making provocative statements. Tahous reportedly told a public rally that groups of tribesmen were prepared to confront security forces if they cracked down on tribes for holding tribal primary elections. The man faces 10 charges including instigating the public to resist security forces and undermining the authority of the head
of the state.

Also, former hardline Islamist MP Mohammad Hayef and a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit against the prime minister, finance and awqaf ministers and head of the government agency responsible for removing violations on state land. The lawsuit alleges that the four men are violating the law by ordering the demolishing of makeshift mosques which are illegally built on state land.


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