Kuwait elects new Parliament
Kuwait elects new Parliament
The election was the second this year in the oil-rich state, where a series of assemblies have collapsed due to a long-running power struggle between the elected parliament and the cabinet, in which the ruling family holds top posts.
Turnout was 40.3 percent for the poll on Saturday, according to initial figures cited by the Information Ministry, the lowest since and including the first general election held in 1963. Participation in the past three elections was about 60 percent.
The opposition refused to stand in the election, saying a new voting system introduced by the ruling emir would prevent its candidates winning the majority they secured in the last vote in February.
Kuwait’s stock index rallied early on Sunday as investors showed confidence the government would be able to follow through on plans to develop the economy now the opposition was out of the National Assembly.
The political turmoil has held up economic reforms and investment, including a 30 billion dinar ($108 billion) development plan aimed at diversifying the heavily oil-reliant economy and attracting foreign investment.
“It is a pro-government parliament. Now the government can do all the things it wanted to, which it said it was prevented from doing. The question now is, will it do it?” said Kuwait University professor of political science Shafeeq Ghabra.
“While it has a parliament that does not oppose it, there is a population which is on the opposition’s side,” he said, referring to the turnout and protests. “The formula has got more complicated.”
More than half of the candidates elected were new to the 50-seat parliament. Shiite candidates won about a third of seats, Kuwaiti media reported. Shiite MPs have tended to be more supportive of the government than the opposition in the past. Female candidates were elected to three seats.
“The election result is the foundation for a new start of development and cooperation between the legislative and executive powers to advance Kuwait and all its people,” Information Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah said.
The election was divisive due to the change to voting rules announced six weeks ago by emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, which cut the number of votes per citizen to one from four.
Tens of thousands marched on Friday in what organizers said was the largest protest in Kuwaiti history, to urge people to shun the ballot box in protest at the reform which they said would skew the outcome in favor of pro-government candidates.
The opposition, which includes Islamists, tribal politicians, liberals and leftists, won two-thirds of seats in the National Assembly 10 months ago and formed a bloc that put pressure on the government, forcing two ministers from office. That parliament was dissolved after a June court ruling. The government said opposition lawmakers used parliament to settle scores rather than helping pass laws needed for economic development. Opposition politicians accused the government of mismanagement and called for an elected cabinet.
Political parties are banned and the affiliations of many of those who stood in the election were unclear, although analysts said the fact they ran in the poll meant they were likely to be more sympathetic to the government than the opposition.
Kuwait, a US ally, has the most open political system among the Gulf Arab states with a parliament that has legislative powers and the ability to scrutinize ministers.
But the emir’s Al-Sabah family, which has ruled for 250 years, holds the main government portfolios and Sheikh Sabah has the final say in state matters.
Israeli planes strike Hamas targets in Gaza
- The attacks targeted two Hamas military sites and a munitions manufacturing site
- “Fire balloons” and kites carrying flammable material have become symbols of the Palestinian border protests in recent months
JERUSALEM: Israeli warplanes on Monday conducted strikes against nine Hamas “military targets” in the northern Gaza Strip in response to incendiary kites being sent into Israeli territory, the army said.
The attacks targeted two Hamas military sites and a munitions manufacturing site, the military said in a statement, without specifying whether the raids had resulted in casualties.
“Fire balloons” and kites carrying flammable material have become symbols of the Palestinian border protests in recent months.
The Israeli army on Saturday wounded two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip attempting to launch incendiary balloons across the border into Israel, officials said.
Since major border protests broke out at the end of March, more than 300 fires have devastated several thousand hectares of fields and shrubland, the Israeli fire service has said.
According to Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 400 kites have been intercepted from some 600 launched since the start of the recent protests.
At least 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire in the same time span. No Israelis have been killed.
Palestinians are calling to return to the homes their families fled or were forced from in 1948 during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas which Israel considers its chief enemy.
The two sides have fought three wars since 2008 and observe a tense cease-fire.