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Shia minority scores big win in Kuwaiti polls
Trend News Agency (Azerbaijan)
December 02, 2012

Newly elected member of Parliament Yousef Zalzaly (top C), a Shi`ite Muslim, is greeted by supporters after the final results of the election were announced in Kuwait city December 1, 2012. Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in a divisive parliamentary election held under new polling rules that triggered an opposition boycott of the ballot and mass protests. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

Kuwait`s Shia minority has won for the first time more than a third of the 50 parliamentary seats in polls boycotted by the opposition which declared the new assembly “illegitimate” due to poor voter turnout, Aljazeera reported.

According to official results released on Sunday, the Shias - who form around 30 per cent of Kuwait`s native population of 1.2 million - won 17 seats compared with seven they won in the scrapped 2012 parliament and nine in the 2009 house.

Three women were elected to the new parliament compared to four in 2009, according to figures released by the National Election Commission.

The new house includes as many as 30 new faces as leading members of the opposition stayed away from the polls.

Sunni Islamists were reduced to a small minority of four MPs compared with as many as 23 in the house elected in February.

© 2012 Trend News Agency.

New Faces in Kuwait Parliament as Opposition Boycotts Unconstitutional Poll
FARS News Agency
December 02, 2012

Newly elected Member of Parliament Safa Al Hashem celebrates after final results of election were announced at her campaign headquarters in Adaliah, December 1, 2012. Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in a divisive parliamentary election held under new polling rules that triggered an opposition boycott of the ballot and mass protests. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

The opposition dismissed the poll, claiming the voter turnout was less than 30 per cent, RT reported.

Due to the boycott declared in response to the change of the electoral law by the Kuwaiti emir, the 34 seats previously occupied by various opposition groups went to new people. There are as many as 30 new faces in the 50-seat legislature.

Arguably the biggest winners in the election are the country`s Shiite minority. Now they have 15 seats as compared to seven in the scrapped February 2012 parliament. The exact percentage of Shiites in the country is not clear, with estimates varying between 20 and 40 per cent.

There are three female MPs in the new house, which marks a reversal from the men-only February 2012 parliament, but is one MP fewer than in the 2009 legislature.

Both official results and opposition estimates showed that turnout dropped significantly compared to the 62 per cent of the February election.

The Information Ministry says 38.8 per cent of eligible voters showed up at the stations. Former MP Khaled al-Sultan said opposition figures showed the voter turnout was as low as 26.7 per cent. On election day some opposition figures claimed that some voters were given two ballots to boost the apparent turnout.

Veteran opposition leader Ahmad al-Saadoun said the “election is unconstitutional”.

There are 3.8 million people living in Kuwait, with 1.2 of them being citizens. Only about 422,000 are eligible to vote. The country has five constituencies and elects 10 MPs from each.

The election came at a moment of great tension in Kuwait. It was the second poll in 10 months and the fifth since 2006, as Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah scrapped four consecutive parliaments over the years.

The country saw mostly peaceful protest prior to the poll, as opposition groups protested a new electoral law, which they felt undermined their chances to win and gave an opportunity to the government to manipulate the election.

© 2012 Fars News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

TIMELINE-Kuwait elects new parliament
December 02, 2012

Election officials open ballot boxes after polls closed in the third constituency in Khalidiya December 1, 2012. Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in a divisive parliamentary election held under new polling rules that triggered an opposition boycott of the ballot and mass protests. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

Dec 2 (Reuters) - Here is a look at Kuwait since Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, took over in 2006 as the country`s ruler.

June 29, 2006 - Powerful Islamist and reformist candidates sweep Kuwait`s elections but women fail to win a single seat in their first run for parliament.

March 19, 2008 - The emir dissolves parliament and sets an election for May after a political crisis that delayed economic reforms and forced the government to resign.

Dec. 18, 2011 - The emir calls early elections, nearly two weeks after he dissolved the chamber in a power struggle.

The decision follows the resignation of a government led by Sheikh Nasser after opposition lawmakers and protesters stormed parliament demanding his removal over allegations of corruption and mismanagement. He was later cleared of wrongdoing.

Feb. 2, 2012 - Snap parliamentary election is held and the Islamist-led opposition take control of parliament, making sweeping gains on a wave of public anger over corruption and political deadlock. The emir asks outgoing prime minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah to form a new cabinet on Feb. 6.

June 20 - Kuwait`s highest court annuls the election results

and reinstates the previous assembly, elected in 2009.

Oct. 7 - The emir dissolves parliament, his fifth such move in six years. A week later five opposition figures are arrested after thousands rally against possible changes to the election law and a prominent opposition figure breaks a taboo by appearing to directly criticise the emir.

Oct. 19 - The emir orders changes to the electoral system, reducing the number of votes per citizen in parliamentary elections to one from four, angering the opposition, which calls for an election boycott.

Oct. 21 - Kuwait is rocked by some of its worst unrest in recent history as a march by tens of thousands of people against the new voting rules is dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades and baton charges.

Nov. 1 - Police rout thousands of protesters with tear gas after they try to march on a prison where an opposition figure is jailed on charges of insulting the emir. Three days later, police tear-gas opposition-led protest of thousands on the edge of Kuwait city. The emir promises to stand firm and says the change to the voting law is within his constitutional powers.

Dec. 1 - Turnout is low as Kuwaitis vote in a parliamentary election held under new polling rules. A day earlier thousands marched to call on voters to boycott the election in protest at the rule change, which they said would skew the outcome in favour of pro-government candidates.

(Reporting by David Cutler and Sylvia Westall; editing by Andrew Roche)

© 2012 Reuters Limited

Kuwait election turnout shrinks after opposition boycott
Ian Black
December 03, 2012

Kuwaiti opposition supporters wave flags during a demonstration against the general election in Kuwait City November 30, 2012. Tens of thousands of people marched in Kuwait on Friday calling for a voter boycott, a day before a parliamentary election that looks unlikely to defuse tensions in the U.S.-allied, oil-producing Gulf country. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

Opposition says new parliament does not represent majority of people, after turnout was officially 43% – and reportedly 28%

Kuwait`s opposition has claimed a victory by boycotting Saturday`s elections and warned that the new parliament does not represent the majority of people in the Gulf emirate, at a time of mounting nervousness about political change throughout the region.

Officially the turnout was reported to be 43%, but opposition supporters claimed it was only 28%. Previous elections, including one held in February this year, saw a turnout of around 60%.

The boycott means the opposition, composed of tribes, Islamists and youth groups, will now have no representative in the 50-seat parliament. The opposition had objected to the government`s unilateral amendment of the electoral law that reduced the number of votes per person from four to one.

The change was seen as designed by the emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed Al Sabah, to weaken the opposition and to end a state of near paralysis in parliament. The outcome weakens Kuwait`s claim to have the most representative political system in the Gulf – even though the ruling family controls most key government posts.

Ahmed al-Saadoun, a leading opposition figure, said the election was “unconstitutional”. The government defended it. “The election result is the foundation for a new start of development and co-operation between the legislative and executive powers to advance Kuwait and all its people,” said the information minister, Sheikh Mohammad al-Mubarak Al Sabah.

Independent analysts questioned the claim. “It is a pro-government parliament,” the political scientist Shafeeq Ghabra told Reuters. “Now the government can do all the things it wanted to, which it said it was prevented from doing. The question now is, will it do it? While it has a parliament that does not oppose it, there is a population which is on the opposition`s side.”

Kuwait has seen unprecedented protests in recent months in a crisis that long predates the changes of the Arab spring elsewhere in the Middle East and north Africa. It has been watched closely and nervously by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbours where there is far less political representation.

The opposition Popular Committee for Boycotting the Election said the new parliament “does not represent the majority of Kuwaiti people and has lost popular and political legitimacy”.

The political turmoil of recent years has held up urgently needed economic reforms, including a $108bn development plan aimed at diversifying the heavily oil-reliant economy and attracting foreign investment. Thanks to its oil reserves, which still provide 95% of government revenues, Kuwait is fabulously rich. But it is also underdeveloped in significant ways.

Political parties are banned and candidates run as individuals. The election saw big gains for Kuwait`s Shia minority, who won 17 of the 50 seats, up from seven in the last parliament, which was dissolved in June. The biggest losers were the three largest Bedouin tribes, which boycotted the polls: more than 400,000 people who had up to 17 MPs in previous assemblies now have just one. Only three women were elected.

© 2012 Guardian News & Media Limited. All rights reserved

Kuwaiti opposition supporters chant slogans during a protest against the general election in Kuwait City November 30, 2012. Tens of thousands of people marched in Kuwait on Friday calling for a voter boycott, a day before a parliamentary election that looks unlikely to defuse tensions in the U.S.-allied, oil-producing Gulf country. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi


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