Kuwaiti panel approves single electoral constituency


  Head of the panel MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said the committee approved the draft law to achieve justice between various electoral districts and different sections of the Kuwaiti voters with regards to the number of voters in electoral districts.

The amendment also aims at preserving national unity by eliminating adverse practices that appeared in the implementation of the five-constituency system in the past two elections. Although the panel gave a provisional approval to the draft law, which stipulates amending the election law, it is doubtful that the committee will be able to finalize the approval of the bill since a new panel will be formed when the new Assembly term opens on Oct 27.

The distribution of voters in the five electoral districts came under fire from many MPs and groups who claimed it lacked justice because of the sharp discrepancies in the number of voters. For example, the number of voters in the second constituency in this year’s elections was 43,400 voters while in the fifth constituency the number was about 110,000 voters. Each constituency elects 10 MPs regardless of the number of voters.

Many believe that enforcing the single constituency system will be difficult under the current Kuwaiti election system which is based on individualism and does not allow political parties. Observers have repeatedly said that applying the single constituency law requires major changes including allowing political parties or at least groups or blocs to contest the elections collectively.

Kuwait was divided into 10 electoral districts between the first full parliamentary elections in 1963 and 1976 when the Assembly was dissolved and constitution suspended. During the absence of the National Assembly, the government in 1980 increased the number of constituencies to 25 and held the first election on the new system in 1981. Opposition MPs continued to demand the return to the 10-constituency system or even reducing the number to five. In 2006, the Assembly was dissolved due to a dispute between the government and MPs over a draft law to reduce the number of constituencies.

Following the June 29 elections, the new Assembly in agreement with the government agreed to amend the constituencies to five. Two elections were held on the basis of the system. Many observers said the system has failed to curb corruption in the elections, especially vote-buying and primary tribal elections. Some alleged it even strengthened divisions in the Kuwaiti society.

The interior committee also approved a draft law that calls to naturalize up to 2,000 people, mostly bedoons (stateless Arabs), in the remaining months of the current year. It also approved an amendment to the nationality law that allows widows of Kuwaiti men who have children to obtain Kuwaiti citizenship even if they have not applied for it before. MP Saad Al-Khanfour meanwhile proposed that the government should issue birth certificates and attest marriage contracts of bedoons without seeking the opinion of the interior ministry committee for bedoons.

In another development, a group of Shiite activists led by Emran Al-Quraishi staged a protest at the Assembly building yesterday demanding the repatriation of the remains of 16 Kuwaiti Shiite activists who were executed in Saudi Arabia in 1989. Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi called for not politicizing the issue and to look to it as a purely humanitarian issue. He said he is confident that Saudi Arabia will respond to the requests.


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