Kuwait votes in parliamentary polls in hopes of ending deadlock


Voters in Kuwait have started to cast their ballots in the seventh legislative election in just over a decade, following repeated political crises that have undermined parliament and stalled reforms.

Polling began at 8am (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday and will continue till 8pm (17:00 GMT). Results will be announced on Wednesday, the official Kuwait News Agency said.

Over 793,000 eligible voters in Kuwait will have the opportunity to shape the composition of the 50-seat legislature, making it the sole Gulf Arab state with an elected parliament possessing powers to hold the government accountable.

In the upcoming general election, a total of 207 candidates are vying for a four-year term as lawmakers, which marks the lowest number since 1996. Among them are opposition figures and 13 women.

Kuwait’s Emir, Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, called for the election after dissolving the parliament due to an ongoing political deadlock. Persistent clashes between government branches have hindered the passage of economic reforms, leading to budget deficits and minimal foreign investment, fostering a sense of pessimism.

Recent bickering revolved around a contentious bill proposing government acquisition of consumer and personal loans taken by Kuwaiti citizens. The government argues that such a move would be exorbitant, costing nearly $46 billion in public funds, while lawmakers argue that the cost would be significantly lower, below $6.5 billion.

The ongoing discord between elected lawmakers and the appointed cabinet has resulted in a decline in social services, such as healthcare and education. The lack of stability has also deterred investors in Kuwait’s petroleum industry, which accounts for approximately seven percent of the world’s crude reserves.

Despite widespread frustration with the political elite, human rights activist Hadeel Buqrais emphasized the importance of participating in the election. She stated, “This is the only place where I have a voice, and boycotting means giving up my right as a citizen.” Buqrais acknowledged that she did not expect the new parliament to address concerns regarding the country’s human rights record but stressed the significance of civic engagement.

While lawmakers are elected, the cabinet members in Kuwait are appointed by the ruling Al-Sabah family, which wields significant control over the political landscape. Earlier this year, the constitutional court nullified the results of the previous year’s election, which had seen significant gains by the opposition, and ordered the reinstatement of the 2020 parliament instead. Since the adoption of a parliamentary system in 1962, Kuwait has witnessed the dissolution of the legislature on approximately twelve occasions.

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