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Middle East

Kuwait awaits results of parliamentary polls

The polls for 50 parliamentary seats saw opposition boycott against a controversial electoral law by the government.

Last Modified: 28 Jul 2013 00:06
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Kuwaiti parliaments elected from 2003 onward have never completed full four-year term. [Reuters]

Kuwaitis are awaiting the results of the second parliamentary polls in eight months, after day-long voting that indicated a higher turnout despite an opposition boycott and sweltering summer heat.

There were no official figures released when polling stations closed at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Saturday but state-run Kuwait television broadcast partial figures suggesting a higher turnout from December's record-low 40 per cent.

The voters braved searing heat in the middle of the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast to cast ballots in 50-seat parliamentary elections that leaders in the oil-rich Gulf nation hope can restore some stability after years of escalating confrontations between the nation’s Western-backed rulers and an Islamist-led opposition.

At some of the 100 polling centres, especially in tribal areas which boycotted the previous polls, voting was brisk while the pace was slow elsewhere amid scorching temperatures, the AFP news agency reported.

Information Minister Sheikh Salman Humoud Al-Sabah said after visiting a polling station earlier in the day in Jahra, west of Kuwait City, that turnout was high despite opposition boycott and the sweltering heat of around 45 C.

It was the second time the opposition had called for a boycott in protest at an electoral law that it alleges enables the ruling Al-Sabah family-controlled government to manipulate the outcome.

The law was ruled legal in June by the constitutional court, even though it dissolved parliament on procedural flaws, and ordered Saturday's election.

Hoping against hope

“I just hope this parliament completes its (four-year) term,” said civil aviation employee Bassam Eid, after voting in Al-Qasia. "We are frustrated at the repeated dissolution of the house,” he told AFP.

The last two parliaments were dissolved by the constitutional court on procedural grounds, while previous parliaments were dissolved by the emir.

None of the Kuwaiti parliaments elected from 2003 onward has completed its full four-year term.

The first elections in Kuwait were held in 1963, two years after the country's independence.

Analysts, however, see little hope the election will bring political stability to the emirate, which has been rocked by lingering disputes since mid-2006 -- when about a dozen cabinets were formed and voters went to the ballot five times -- stalling development.

“I think the root of the problem is the unwillingness of some sections of the Al-Sabah ruling family to see an elected parliament,” analyst Anwar al-Rasheed said ahead of the polls.

Of Kuwait's population of 3.9 million, just 31 per cent are citizens and of that 1.23 million only 440,000, aged 21 and over, are eligible to vote.

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