Kuwaitis to vote amid slowdown

Hopes pinned on election to end standoff between ruling family and parliament.

    Rola Dashti, one of 16 women running this year, kisses her uncle at her campaign centre [AFP]

    "The stock market value just last August was at 64bn Kuwait dinars [about $200bn]. Now the value of the market is half of that," Adnan Al-Delaimi, a Kuwaiti financial expert, told Al Jazeera.

    "Many factors made the economic situation worse - the decline in oil prices, the global financial turmoil - but it is the ongoing political bickering between the ruling family and the country's parliament that is making things worse."

    Political dispute

    A bailout plan was announced to stabilise the stock market but this was abandoned after the emir dissolved the parliament.

    In depth

     Q&A: Political crisis in Kuwait
     Video: Political infighting disrupts Kuwait's markets

    The government has also proposed several reforms, of investment laws among other things, and the upgrading of the petrochemical infrastructure.

    Neighbouring Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain have transformed themselves into commercial, financial and tourist centres by attracting foreign investors.

    But the 50-seat parliament has vetoed many of the projects, accusing the government of incompetence, corruption and mismanagement of public funds.

    The political infighting has led to three parliament dissolutions and five different cabinets in as many years.

    Investment concerns

    Local businessmen, frustrated with both the political and economic climate, have demanded an immediate recovery plan.

    Al-Delaimi said: "Foreign direct investment inflows have decreased substantially since the crisis began and since this conflict really started.

    "The major reason of course is there is political instability, and since foreign investors see instability even in the best of democracies, they will get worried and they will pull out their investments."

    The newly elected parliament, which most experts predict will include 20 of the 50 seats for Islamists, will have several delayed bills to decide on.

    While some analysts have suggested women may have a better chance of winning this time, the Islamists are expected to dominate the new parliament, which could continue to delay reforms and stall efforts to salvage Kuwait's struggling economy.

    A total of 210 candidates are up for election in Saturday's vote.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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