‘Deteriorating’ state sparks early polls

February 5, 2012

Kuwaitis go to the polls today to elect 50 representatives to the National Assembly. The vote which will usher in the country’s 14th parliament is to be held across five redrawn electoral constituencies.

Polling will start at 8am and end at 8pm, with initial results expected to stream in by midnight, local time.

Officials said that 400,296 Kuwaitis are registered to cast their ballots, an increase of 15,506 (4.02 per cent) over 2009.

Women represent 53.78 per cent of the electorate with 215,300 voters, while men account for 184,996 of all registered voters. However, despite women making up for a majority of the electorate, only 23 women are standing for election, out of a total number of 286 candidates. They will be eyeing bigger gains this time round after four women made history in 2009 by becoming the country’s first women parliamentarians.

The Electoral Commission said 398 people had filed nominations initially, but 108 subsequently opted out of the race over a three-week period accorded under the elections law to withdraw from the fray.

Opinion surveys

Surveys indicate that the turnout this time is expected to be around 66 per cent. In 2009, when elections were last held, the turnout had been 58 per cent. The elections are being held more than a year ahead of schedule after Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah dissolved the parliament in December citing “the deteriorating conditions that led to difficulties in achieving progress and threatened the country’s higher interests”.

“It was necessary to go back to the people to choose their representatives,” Shaikh Sabah observed.

One writer for local Arabic daily Al Jareeda summed up the election mood thus: “The street is equally divided between optimists and pessimists.”

Hussain Al Utaibi further wrote: “There are those who believe that the change will not match the volume of political movement in the recent months. But there are also those who point to the fact that some of the former lawmakers who exploited their position will not seek re-election as an indication to be optimistic.”

Kuwait was rocked by a corruption scandal that saw 12 former lawmakers quizzed by the public prosecution. The episode was exploited by the opposition to pile up constitutional, media and street pressure on the government, which eventually stepped down in late November. The government’s resignation was followed one week later by the dissolution of the parliament and the call for fresh elections.

Despite claims in some quarters that the new parliament will witness a 70 per cent renewal in terms of composition, analysts point to the fact that real changes have always been between 48 and 52 per cent, regardless of the number of constituencies.

Kuwait has experimented with 10 and 25 electoral constituencies before it settled on the current number of five in a bid to widen opportunities for candidates to get elected in elections where religious affiliations and tribes play a deciding role.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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