First Published: 2012-11-29

 

Kuwait heads to polls amid opposition boycott

 

Analysts see little hope in Saturday elections, fifth since mid-2006 to restore stability in Gulf emirate.

 

Middle East Online

By Omar Hasan - KUWAIT CITY

A test of popularity

Kuwait stands at a crossroads as voters head to the polls on Saturday for a contest being boycotted by the opposition and with little hope of restoring stability, analysts say.

Voter turnout for what will be Kuwait's second polls of the year, and the fifth since mid-2006, is seen as a litmus test for the popularity of the opposition and the government as they lock horns.

Kuwait was seen in neighbouring Gulf states as a beacon of democracy with its vibrant parliament, introduced in 1962, and freedom of speech. But this image has been shattered by non-stop wrangling over the past six years.

"Kuwait stands at a crossroads. The outcome of Saturday's polls will be decisive for the country's future," Shiite election candidate Abdulwahed al-Khalfan said.

"If turnout comes at less than 35-40 percent, it will strengthen the opposition. But if it exceeds 50 percent, as we hope, it will be a major morale booster for the next parliament," Khalfan said.

No significant opposition figure is contesting the legislative polls and accordingly all the 50 seats will be won by pro-government members though Khalfan believes a new form of opposition within parliament will emerge.

The opposition held 36 seats in the scrapped house elected in February.

The election campaign has been lacklustre, with only small crowds showing up for gatherings compared to thousands in previous polls.

The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition is confident of a high voter boycott and that this will hasten the demise of the next parliament.

"We are expecting a 70-percent voter boycott. We believe the boycott campaign has been extremely successful," said opposition figure Mohammed al-Dallal, a member of the scrapped 2012 parliament.

"We are optimistic that the next parliament will not last long because it is rejected by wide sections of the people. It has already lost popular and constitutional legitimacy," Dallal said.

The government has countered huge boycott protests with a media blitz over state-run television to convince citizens to vote, while the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, has also urged Kuwaitis to exercise their democratic right.

The current dispute between the government, led by the Al-Sabah ruling family, and the opposition was triggered by a decree issued by the emir to amend electoral law.

The opposition says the unilateral amendment in October was unconstitutional and intended to influence the outcome of the polls and elect a pro-government parliament.

In an unprecedented verdict four months earlier, Kuwait's top court nullified the February legislative polls, scrapped the opposition-controlled parliament and reinstated a pro-government house.

Independent political analyst Nasser al-Abdali, head of the Kuwait Society for the Advancement of Democracy, said the "confrontation will continue and will take various forms ... Violence is not ruled out."

"It is a struggle between chaos and the state of law ... Now, Kuwait is witnessing chaos with state institutions paralysed and development stalled despite unprecedented huge financial surpluses," he said.

OPEC member Kuwait has posted budget surpluses of over $250 billion in the past 13 fiscal years, thanks to high oil prices, and is estimated to hold around $400 billion of foreign assets.

Khalfan and Abdali agreed that the future depends on the selection of a strong and reformist government that can put development back on track.

Dallal said that after the election, the opposition will launch a fresh campaign to urge a boycott of the next cabinet and parliament and any legislation passed by them.

"The peaceful protests will continue until the next parliament is scrapped and the amendment to the electoral law is repealed," he said.

Since mid-2006, nine governments have resigned and parliament has been dissolved on six occasions, in relentless political disputes as Kuwaitis stepped up demands for fundamental reforms and power-sharing.

The opposition, however, has never challenged the Al-Sabah family in power for more than 250 years.

 

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders

Turkish prosecutors demand 14 years for activists

Final push for votes as EU leaders warn over Brexit

Egypt government appeals court block on islands’ transfer to Saudis

Heat, long fasting days take their toll on Cairo residents

Assad names Imad Khamis as new Prime Minister

Turkey wants Britain to stay in EU 'under any circumstances'

EU to open new membership talks with Turkey

Turkey arrests 3 IS suspects over 'LGBT rally plot'

Yemen rebels say consensus president crucial for peace deal

Fallujah 'almost cleared' of ISIS jihadists

Dawn prayers stoke fears for Turkey's Hagia Sophia

Turkish FM says normalisation deal depends on Israel

25 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Raqa

UN urges international community to aid civilians who fled Fallujah

UN envoy proposes roadmap for Yemen peace