Interpreting Middle East Economic News and Analyzing Market Trends

Kuwaitis hang on to hope after 6th parliament is elected in 6 years

Kuwait Election 2013

Kuwaitis elected their 6th parliament in six years in a special election, but then again, isn’t every election in Kuwait special?  Members of Parliament (MPs) can’t seem to hang on to power for more than a year.  It has been a deadbeat/lame-duck parliament since the Emir brought back democracy to the state after the 1990/91 Gulf War.  Will this time be different?

 

Liberals and candidates from some of Kuwait’s more marginalized tribes have won seats in a parliament which may prove more cooperative with the ruling family after opposition Islamists and populists boycotted the election.

Saturday’s ballot was the sixth since 2006 in the major oil producer, where political upheaval and bureaucracy have held up the vast majority of projects in a 30-billion-dinar ($105-billion) economic development plan announced in 2010.

Kuwait has the most open political system in the Gulf Arab region but parliaments have been repeatedly dissolved over procedural disputes or for challenging the government in which members of the ruling Al-Sabah family hold top posts.

“The large number of new MPs gives hope that a National Assembly with greater popular backing can find a way of improving relations with the government,” said Gulf expert Kristian Ulrichsen, at the U.S.-based Baker Institute for Public Policy, referring to a 12 percent higher turnout than last time.

“The increased turnout signals that many Kuwaitis are ready to put the recent past behind them and move forward,” Ulrichsen said.

In accordance with Kuwait’s legislation, the outgoing cabinet approved a draft decree inviting new lawmakers to hold their first parliamentary session on August 6, state news agency KUNA said.

Voters also complained about a lack of development in Kuwait – one of the world’s richest countries per capita.

“The country is reeling from the deterioration of services and we need to treat the wounds to start a new phase with genuine cooperation between the two authorities,” new MP Issa al-Kandari said, referring to the government and parliament.

The mainly Islamist and populist opposition boycotted the poll in protest against a new voting system announced last year, which cut the number of votes per citizen to one from four. Opposition politicians said this would prevent them forming a majority in parliament.

Shi’ites – estimated at 20-30 percent of the population – won just eight seats in the 50-member parliament compared to 17 in the last election in December, after Sunnis in their districts ramped up a campaign to win seats.

The snap election was triggered by a ruling from the top court in June, which said the process leading up to the last one was legally flawed. The court also upheld the new voting system in a ruling which led to splits in the opposition.

Campaign themes have included fighting corruption, loan relief and concern over Kuwait’s $4 billion aid package to Egypt after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

Kuwait and other Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were glad to see Mursi deposed because they fear Islamist influence in their own dynastically ruled states.

About 52 percent of 439,715 eligible voters cast ballots, according to an initial Reuters calculation based on voting figures posted on an Information Ministry website.

Read the full story from Reuters.

  Anyone who goes out to vote during Ramadan and 115+ degree weather says that they have hope.  This time around, many of the new candidates were younger and rallied the younger generations behind them who are tired of seeing the old guys bitch and bicker over the smallest things.  Infrastructure and basic services are in poor shape even tought Kuwait is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  The lame-duck parliament is the reason Kuwait has fallen behind its Gulf neighbors in terms of development and overall quality of life.  Ask a person in the UAE if they want democracy and they will say “hell no! Look at Kuwait.”

 

The new parliament has a chance to do what previous parliaments couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t.  If they lose this chance, hope will disappear with it.