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Shias main losers in Kuwait polls

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Losing ground:Shia candidate and former MP Yousef al-Zalzalah (centre) celebrates his victory in Kuwait City on Sunday.— Photo: AFP
Losing ground:Shia candidate and former MP Yousef al-Zalzalah (centre) celebrates his victory in Kuwait City on Sunday.— Photo: AFP

Kuwait’s Shia minority lost more than half of their seats and liberals made slight gains in the Gulf state’s second polls in eight months, in a major blow to radicals.

The final results, released early Sunday by judicial authorities, showed Shia candidates winning just eight seats in the 50-member Parliament.

They candidates had won a record 17 in the previous House elected in December but scrapped in a court ruling last month. Shias form around 30 per cent of Kuwait’s native population of 1.23 million.

The official figures also recorded a significant rise in turnout.

According to figures posted on the Information Ministry website, voter turnout was 52.5 per cent, compared to December’s record low of 40 per cent due to opposition boycott. Average turnout at Kuwaiti polls is around 65 per cent.

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

“I think that the main success in this election is the failure of Shia and Sunni radicals to get re-elected,” director of Etijahat Research and Studies Centre Talal al-Kashti told AFP.

At least two Shia and two Sunni religious radicals, who were accused of inciting sectarian tension, failed in their bid for re-election.

“The composition of this Parliament is representative of various components of the Kuwaiti society. Accordingly, I believe it will be very quiet ... and will cooperate with the government,” said Mr. Kashti.

Liberals, Shias, Sunni Islamists, merchants and almost all Bedouin tribes have representatives in Parliament.

The Liberals, who had no seat in the previous Parliament, won at least three this time. Sunni Islamists increased their presence from five to seven seats and tribal groups have maintained their strength of 24 seats.

Only two women were elected compared to three in the previous parliament.

The opposition had called for a boycott in protest against the government’s amendment of the key electoral law, though it was upheld by the constitutional court.

Outcome

The opposition says the amendment enabled the government to manipulate the outcome of polls.

Kuwait is a member of OPEC and pumps 3.0 million barrels of oil daily. It was the first state in the Gulf to adopt parliamentary democracy in 1962. Parliament enjoys legislative and monitoring powers but the government is formed from outside elected MPs and is headed by a senior member of the Al-Sabah ruling family. — AFP


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