Kuwaitis to vote in parliamentary election tomorrow




Voters will elect a 50-seat parliament for the second time in less than two years to replace one dissolved by Emir H E Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in March following a standoff between the assembly and the government.

Kuwait has been rocked by political turmoil over the past two years, which also saw four cabinets resign and several ministers grilled and forced to quit, stalling development.

"I think people are frustrated at the continued crises that have stalled projects… Between 50 and 60 percent of the faces will be changed. People are seeking change that brings stability," said political analyst Anwar Al Rasheed.

A total of 274 candidates are running in the election, which will be contested on a new system under which electoral districts have been slashed from 25 to five, a demand which united the opposition in the June 2006 polls.

They include 27 women who are standing and voting for only the second time. No female candidate won a seat in the last polls.

Islamist, liberal and nationalist opposition groups are fielding about 45 candidates but are less united than they were two years ago, while 38 members of the outgoing parliament are seeking re-election.

Sectarian, tribal and social divisions will play an important role in the outcome of the poll, though Sunni Islamists and conservatives are likely to retain control of the house, political analyst Saleh Al Saeedi said.

Regardless of the composition of the next parliament, it will not be able to bring political stability because this hinges on the Al Sabah family which has ruled the emirate for 250 years, Saeedi said.

"Stability does not depend on parliament because it does not govern. It depends on the ruling family," he said.

During the election campaign some candidates made blunt and unprecedented accusations that power struggles within the Al Sabah dynasty were behind the political crises which have plagued the country in recent years.

"The actual cause for grillings (of ministers) is the disputes among (ruling) family members. These disputes must be settled if the country is to enjoy stability," said Khaled Sultan, an Islamist candidate and former MP.

Liberal lawmaker Mohammad Al Sager told an election rally "Kuwait is paying the price of these disputes."

Some candidates have accused Al Sabah family members of interfering in elections, but no one has questioned the legitimacy of the ruling family, whose members hold key government portfolios.

Saeedi said the purported infighting has changed the concept of parliamentary opposition in Kuwait.

"Now it is one group of MPs siding with one wing (in the ruling family) and the other group loyal to another wing," he said.

Kuwait, in 1962, was the first Gulf Arab nation to introduce a parliamentary system. In recent years it has witnessed calls for allowing political parties, which remain banned although political groups act as de facto parties.



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