Thursday, February 29, 2024

Polls in Kuwait: opposition wins, government resignation accepted | Middle East

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Almost half of the seats in the National Assembly were won by the opposition, but none of the 29 candidates won a seat.

The Kuwaiti opposition won nearly half of the seats in parliament in polls over the weekend amid calls for reform over corruption and high debt levels, but the only female lawmaker lost her seat.

Twenty-four of the 50 seats in the National Assembly were won by candidates belonging to or leaning towards the opposition, against 16 in the last legislature, according to the results announced Sunday by the electoral commission on state television.

But while 29 women contested the elections in Saturday’s race, none were elected – a blow to the status of women who have fought hard in recent years for more representation in the wealthy emirate. oil, after obtaining the right to vote 15 years ago.

Nonetheless, the election of 30 candidates under 45 sent a promising signal to young people hoping for change and reform.

The election, which takes place every four years, has been overshadowed by COVID-19 and a consequent reduction in campaigns that normally draw thousands of people for lavish banquets and extravagant events.

Five polling stations – one in each electoral district – have been designated for people infected with the coronavirus.

The polls were the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, at the age of 91 years old.

The country has the oldest elected parliament in the Gulf, but under the constitution the emir has extensive powers and can dissolve the legislature on the recommendation of the government.

‘Big change’

Thirty-one new faces will enter the new parliament, according to the results.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM) won three seats, while candidates from the Shia minority won six.

In accordance with protocol, Prime Minister Sabah Khalid al-Sabah tendered his government’s resignation to the Emir, the state-run KUNA news agency said.

The Emir of Kuwait has asked the cabinet to remain interim until a new government is appointed.

“There is a big change in the composition of the new National Assembly,” Kuwaiti analyst Ayed al-Manaa told AFP news agency.

“This is an indication of the anger of voters at the performance of the previous legislature and their desire for change in the economy, health [and] education, ”he said.

A Kuwaiti man casts his vote in parliamentary elections in Jahra City, Kuwait [Stephanie McGehee/Reuters]

Like most Gulf countries, Kuwait’s economy has been hit hard by the double whammy of the pandemic and the drop in oil prices.

Political parties are banned in Kuwait – ruled by the al-Sabah family for over 250 years – which adopted a parliamentary system in 1962.

Many groups operate freely as de facto parties. The opposition coalition is made up of individuals rather than well-defined parties with a distinct ideology.

While parliament has the power to dismiss the prime minister and cabinet members, the Kuwaiti political setup means change is not easy.

Power is concentrated in the royal family, with the emir choosing the prime minister and 15 of the 16 ministerial posts.


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