Opposition makes comeback in Kuwait snap elections
London - After a three-year absence from parliament, Kuwait’s opposition members and their allies will return to the Gulf country’s political arena, winning 24 of the 50 assembly seats at stake in the seventh general elections in a decade.
One-third of the new parliament’s members will be newcomers and most of the seats won by the opposition will go to Muslim Brotherhood-linked candidates and Salafists.
Safa Abdul Rahman al-Hashem became the ninth woman to be elected to the Kuwaiti parliament since women first voted in 2006. Hashem was the only female candidate to win out of 15 who stood for the November 26th elections in which 70% of the eligible voters cast ballots.
Political parties in the traditional sense are banned in Kuwait, making the opposition in parliament an unofficial marriage of convenience between segments of Kuwaiti society often with contradicting political inclinations — a mix of liberals, nationalist and conservative Islamists mainly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Kuwait’s Shia minority community saw its parliamentary representation drop from nine to six seats.
The parliamentary elections dominated social media ahead of the vote, with sentiments conveyed ranging from the hailing of the democratic process to warning of electoral fraud or voting based on tribal affiliations.
“When you cast your ballot, remember your children and that you will go and the homeland will remain; at this moment you will get to know who you will vote for in order to stop the depletion of this nation that deserves good,” Mona al-Omran wrote on her Twitter account. Youseif al-Hqqan posted: “May God help whoever seeks to serve this country.”
A matter of great concern for Kuwaitis has been voter fraud, particularly the practice of offering cash for votes, with a quote from George Orwell trending heavily in Arabic. “A people that elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices,” it says.
Voting based on tribal allegiances also weighed heavily on some minds. “The electoral process has deviated from its course. I see democracy in the ugliest image when some prioritise loyalty to the tribe and the sect. And the nation remains suffering from them,” student Abdullah al-Mani said.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah dissolved parliament in October and called for new elections. “Due to the delicate regional developments and the need to face the dangers of security challenges, it became necessary to go back to the people… to elect their representatives… and contribute to confronting those challenges,” al-Sabah said in a statement.
Before it was dissolved, the parliament had planned to question several government officials regarding austerity measures, particularly the escalating price of petrol, and alleged financial violations. Historically, the submission of motions for such questioning by MPs resulted in the dissolution of parliament by the emir, who has final say on such matters.
Although the new MPs have yet to be sworn in and any calls for questioning government officials will not be made before parliamentary sessions begin, members of the opposition have pledged to block austerity measures designed to boost non-oil revenue.
Parliament is controlled by pro-government lawmakers and ultimate power still remains with the emir.
A new 15-member cabinet appointed by Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Hamad al-Sabah is expected to be announced before December 11th.