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Shias lose over half of seats in Kuwait polls

Sunni Islamists and liberals earn more seats in the country's sixth parliamentary election in as many years.

Last Modified: 28 Jul 2013 06:09
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Kuwaiti parliaments elected from 2003 onward have never completed full four-year term [Reuters]

Kuwait's Shia minority has lost more than half of their seats while the country’s liberals and Islamists improved their previous score in the country’s parliamentary polls.

According to official results, released by judicial authorities on Sunday, Shia candidates won just eight seats in the 50-member parliament denting their previous record of 17 seats in December 2012 polls, scrapped in a court ruling last month.

According to the results, the Liberals, who had no seat in the previous parliament, won at least three this time while Sunni Islamists increased their presence from five to seven seats.

Only two women were elected compared to three in the previous parliament even as the new parliament includes as many as 26 new faces, reflecting the desire of Kuwaiti voters for change in the hope of an end to ongoing political crisis.

Some groups who had boycotted the previous polls chose to take part this time, in particular Bedouin tribes and liberal groups.

Shias form about 30 per cent of Kuwait's native population of 1.23 million.

Opposition boycott

According to figures posted on the information ministry website, voter turnout was 52.5 percent, compared to December's record low of 40 per cent. The higher turnout came despite sweltering summer heat of 45 degrees Celsius, Muslim Ramadan fasting, and calls by the opposition to boycott the ballots.

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 the fresh polls.

Saturday's election was the sixth in the oil-rich emirate over the past seven years.

“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 country, 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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