Islamists sweep Kuwait polls

Published February 3, 2012

—AFP Photo

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s Islamist-led opposition has won a landslide majority in Kuwait’s snap polls by securing 34 seats in the 50-member parliament, with women and liberals the big losers, results showed Friday.

Sunni Islamists, including Salafists, took 23 seats compared with just nine in the dissolved parliament, while liberals claimed only two places against five previously, according the official results.

And no women were elected, with the four female MPs of the previous parliament all losing their seats.

Voters punished pro-government MPs during Thursday’s parliamentary election, reducing them to a small minority, the results showed.

Only two of 13 former MPs who the public prosecutor questioned over corruption charges were re-elected, and the rest either lost or did not contest the poll.

Following the announcement of the results, hundreds of opposition supporters gathered at the campaign tents of candidates they backed to celebrate the outcome.

Speaking after his victory, new opposition MP Obaid al-Wasmi warned all “corruption files will be opened,” including claims that hundreds of millions of public funds were stolen.

“I tell the decision-makers that the Kuwait of tomorrow will not be the same as of the Kuwait of yesterday,” said the outspoken independent opposition figure.

“The law will be applied to all, and those who do not want the law to be applied to them should leave Kuwait,” the professor of law told cheering supporters.

The Sunni Islamists consist of Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which won all four seats they contested compared with two and one, respectively, in the old parliament.

Independent Islamists who represent tribes garnered nine seats.

Overall, the opposition scored strongly in the two tribal-dominated constituencies, winning 18 of the 20 available seats. Kuwait is divided into five electoral districts, with each electing 10 lawmakers.

Minority Shiites who form about 30 per cent of the native population saw their representation reduced to seven MPs from nine, with four of them from Islamist groups.

Under Kuwaiti law, the opposition, a loose formation of Islamists, nationalists and independents, will not be asked to form the new cabinet because the premier must be a member of the ruling family appointed by the ruler.

But it will have enough strength to vote the prime minister of any minister out of office. The new parliament must hold its first session within two weeks, according to the constitution.

Political parties are banned in Kuwait but several political groups operate freely.

The snap election was called after the ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state dissolved parliament following youth-led protests and bitter disputes between the opposition MPs and the government.

The protests also led to the resignation of the former prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who was later replaced by another senior member of the ruling family.

The vote followed a fierce campaign amid heightened sectarian and tribal tensions that impacted on the results, with hardliners making gains and moderates losing.

The nationalist Popular Action Bloc, headed by veteran opposition MP Ahmad al-Saadun, boosted its strength to five members from four with several supporters.

Saadun is expected to become speaker of the new parliament.

Opposition candidates contested the election on the platform of fighting corruption, calling for fundamental political reforms and implementing projects.

Ahead of the results, Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai had said the opposition plans to submit a series of reformist bills, especially to fight corruption and reform the election law.

OPEC member Kuwait has been rocked by a series of political crises over the past six years, leading to the resignation of seven governments and dissolution of parliament on four occasions.

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