Kuwait readies for snap election after dissolving parliament

Sunday 23/10/2016

London - Voter registration is under way in Kuwait, which is gearing up for early leg­islative elections — the third in five years — after the country’s emir ordered the dis­solution of parliament.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior announced conditions for candi­dates looking to compete for a seat in the 50-member assembly. They include being a Kuwaiti citizen by birth, not by naturalisation. Candi­dates are required to be more than 30 years of age on November 26th, the day of the election, have a good ability to read and write Arabic and be free of a criminal record that damages their “integrity and trust­worthiness”.

“The absence of a criminal record for insulting God, the prophets or the emir condition was set for the first time,” reported the Dubai-based Gulf News.

Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah dissolved par­liament following an emergency meeting with the cabinet, owing to “the circumstances in the region… and the security challenges” that require a new mandate.

“It became necessary to go back to the people… to elect their rep­resentatives… and contribute to confronting those challenges,” his decree said.

Most opposition figures boycott­ed the election in 2013, protesting changes in the voting system in­troduced by the government but many indicated they would take part in the next polls.

Local media reported that for­mer members of parliament sit­ting in the 2012 parliament but boycotted the 2013 election have discussed taking part in the No­vember election.

The Islamic Constitutional Movement, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, said it would field six candidates. The Islamist Ummah Principles Group also said it would take part in the upcoming election.

A new government is expected to be formed by December 12th, although most of its members will not likely be sitting MPs. The law requires the cabinet to include at least one parliamentarian. The government is usually headed by a member of the ruling family.

In Kuwait, the elected parlia­ment often assumes the role of oversight as well as opposition to the unelected government but the last parliament had a reduced number of opposition figures.

Potential voters have until Octo­ber 28th to register and parliamen­tary hopefuls have started cam­paigning.

“The majority of voters are not satisfied with the efforts of the lawmakers (of the recently dis­solved parliament) and are look­ing for change,” former lawmaker Nawaf al-Fuzai, who is running for this election, told Kuwait Times.

“The public didn’t really trust the current crop of lawmakers due to their poor performance and fail­ure in resolving various problems or meeting the demands of the people,” he added. “The removal of fuel subsidies and the hiking of petrol prices without consultation with the people is a recent exam­ple.”

Former MP Roudhan al-Roud­han, who is also running in the No­vember election, told the Kuwait newspaper Al Qabas that “there was anger towards the parliamen­tarians but they were elected by you… Hopefully this time you will elect those who represent you.”

Candidate Humaidi al-Subaei said most members of the dis­solved parliament will not be vot­ed back in.

“The people are thirsty for change, which will not be less than 80%,” he told Kuwait Online. He said the former MPs are spending huge amounts of money to return but “that won’t do them any good. They will lose their money and not gain seats.”

“We will see the will of the Ku­waiti people in making an unprec­edented change,” Subaei said.

Speaking to Al Qabas, Hussein Nasser al-Huraiti, a former MP who is running for election again, said: “The National Assembly is missing a lot of things, most im­portantly its lack of deputies who have expertise”.

Some observers pointed to the government’s announcement to cut fuel subsidies in August as among the main reasons for dis­solving parliament. “Early elec­tions allow the emir to avoid a showdown in the parliament over subsidies and months of parlia­mentary criticism of the govern­ment’s policies,” Scott Weiner wrote in the Washington Post.

Responding to public pressure, the emir ordered a review of a controversial law that allows the government to collect DNA infor­mation from more than 3 million people for security purposes.