New constituencies’ system in Kuwait will tackle some negative aspects


The constituencies’ regime has constituted a major factor in the political history of the country since formation of the first legislative assembly in 1962, when the polling was held on the basis of the 10-constituency regime, giving the voter the right to cast five ballot papers, a matter that facilitated formation of political blocs and lists.

This system was maintained till 1981, when elections for seats in the
National Assembly were held for the first time after a long absence of
parliamentary activities, but this poll was held according to the 25-district system, a regime that drew waves of criticisms and arguments that it effectively constituted the fertile ground for emergence of the so-called services’ parliamentarians, spread of vote purchasing and holding of primary polls.

The 2008 elections will be the first such parliamentary experience in line with the five-constituency system, that was established following wide-scale calls to review the previous one, largely blamed for various negative dimensions of previous polling processes.

Opining on the new system, political sciences professor at Kuwait University Dr Abdullah Al-Ghanem said that the five-region system would certainly affect "the nature of electoral tactics and qualifications of the nominees … this experience will result in both negative and positive practices according to which judging whether it is better than the old one will be made.

On the prospected positive dimensions, Dr Al-Ghanem expressed his belief
that it would limit purchase of votes, for the new system would compel such nominees who depend on money to secure the path to the parliamentary seat to allocate huge funds to win votes among tens of thousands of voters, compared to the previous system where the candidate would only spend moderate amounts of money considering the limited size of the electorate.

Moreover, the new system will compel the candidates to address a much
larger electorate basis with diverse and divergent beliefs and intellectual orientations. As to the primaries, "it weakens control of some tribes on the ballot boxes of their constituencies as was the case according to the old division.

Dr Al-Ghanem added that the five-division system might imply some negative aspects, such as formation of tribal alliances, in a manner broader than that witnessed in the past and forecast intensive shift of votes across the five regions. Thus, this may deepen the phenomenon of sectarian and tribal gatherings. In the shadow of the new regime, some political groups will seek to select their nominees on the basis of their tribal or sectarian popularity.

The professor said he favored the five-division system for the single constituency order, because, as he said, of the low level of political awareness among the voters, that would result in polls based on sectarian and tribal considerations. But Professor Najlaa Al-Naqi, a lawyer and political activist, said she backed the one-constituency system because it tackles all the negative features of the multiple electoral districts.

The single constituency system removes the geographical barrier, allows the electorate to choose the politically qualified candidates and limit the margin for those who use money to win the hearts and minds of the voters. On women participation, she opined that the soft gender’s experience would be largely identical to that of 2006, due to the limited experience for them in this domain. Naqi proposed allocating seats exclusively for the women, otherwise "they will wait for a long period of time to win membership in the assembly."


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