Kuwaitis vote in austerity-focused poll, energized by opposition

Kuwaiti women flash their passports as they arrive to cast their votes at a polling station in Kuwait City. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2016

Kuwaitis vote in austerity-focused poll, energized by opposition

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaitis turned out in large numbers Saturday for the first election contested by the opposition in nearly four years amid fresh disputes over cuts in subsidies due to falling oil revenues.
Turnout was high with some polling stations reporting that 80 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT), according to Kuwait Television. Vote counting started at some centers but final results are not expected before early Sunday.
While Kuwait’s two previous elections yielded poor turnout due to opposition boycotts, voters said they were encouraged by seeing their candidates running this time around.
“Their return is needed to strike a political balance in the country. They are more capable of monitoring the government actions,” voter Ibrahim Al-Tulaihi said at a polling station south of Kuwait City.
“A wise opposition is needed because we don’t want more political disputes,” Jarrah Mohammad, a government employee, said after casting his ballot.
“There will be no charges on citizens because we have no problem with finances. We have a problem with government management and corruption,” Matar said.
A total of 293 candidates, including 14 women, are contesting 50 seats in an assembly that enjoys legislative powers but has often been at odds with the government. The opposition is fielding 30 candidates.
“We want the next Parliament to stop the government from hiking prices,” said pensioner Maasouma Abdullah. But others said they could accept a slight raise because of dwindling oil revenues.
“I think we should accept some reasonable raises but not on power and water. Oil revenues have dropped sharply and we should take measures,” voter Jabr Al-Jalahma said.
Opposition candidates campaigned heavily for economic and social reform and an end to what they charge is rampant corruption.
The election focused on recent government austerity measures aimed at tackling the nation’s deficit.
The Parliament was due to run until July 2017, but Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, dissolved it in October, saying “security challenges” in the region — an apparent reference to wars in Iraq and Syria — should be met by consulting the popular will.
“I hope we will have a better Parliament than the previous one,” said a 22-year-old Islamic Waqf Affairs Ministry employee after she voted for the first time at a girls’ school in the upper middle class Al-Rawda district in southern Kuwait City.
“We want young men who can help turn Kuwait into a financial and commercial hub, and who can help give people their rights without the help of influential people,” said Amal Abul, 45, a department head at the Education Ministry.
The opposition, comprising hard-liners, liberals and pan-Arabists, won a majority in the February 2012 election but boycotted another in December that year over changes to voting rules that activists said favored pro-government candidates.
Campaigning has focused mainly on austerity measures adopted in the past year after officials forecast a deficit of 9.5 billion dinars ($31 billion) for the 2016/17 fiscal year. The OPEC state relies on oil for about 90 percent of its revenues.
Amal Al-Jarallah, a 50-year-old Education Department employee, said she wanted to see MPs try to improve health and education standards and help working mothers.
Asked if she wanted to see women in Parliament, she said: “If they are qualified, yes. But that is not an issue.”

Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

Updated 12 min 26 sec ago

Is a spate of terror incidents in Egypt a ‘last dance’ for militants or a failure in security operations

  • Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability

CAIRO: Three terrorist attacks in the space of as many days have raised questions over whether the Egyptian security forces have brought extremist militancy in the country under control.

The attacks between Friday and Monday came after a period of relative calm. The Egyptian military has been involved in an extensive operation against terrorist groups in their stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula for more than a year. Police forces have also been carrying out operations against cells in a large number of governorates.

The first of the three incidents was a failed attempt to plant a bomb near security forces in Cairo on Friday. On Saturday, however, a massive blast killed 14 members of the military on a security mission near El-Arish in Sinai.
The third bombing on Monday could have been just as deadly. A suicide bomber blew himself up after he was chased by police in the densely populated Al-Hussein district of Cairo near Al-Azhar Mosque. In the end three officers were killed.
The attacks came after months of relative calm in an insurgency that began after the Muslim Brotherhood president Muhammad Mursi was removed from power in 2012.
Since then, militants have targeted the Egyptian security forces, churches, coptic Christians, tourists and ordinary Egyptians, killing hundreds.
In November 2017, gunmen carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egyptian history — killing more than 300 people at a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai.

In response, the military launched a vast operation in February last year to “eliminate terrorism in Egypt.” The operation is ongoing.

Some have speculated that the sudden spate of incidents is the militants lashing out to spoil the image that Egypt is returning to stability.

“[Terrorists] want to give Egypt a bad image to foreigners living abroad, on order to make a point. They want to abort the democratic reform process that Egypt’s been implementing in the past period,” MP Mohamed Maher Hamed told Arab News.

Author and political analyst Walid Qutb said Egypt is keen to host more important regional and international events and forums, including the African Nations football tournament, and a drop in terror-related incidents is key to this.

He said the return of terrorist operations at this time is an attempt to send a clear message that Egypt is not a safe country. What the extremists have done recently is a final dance and lost, Qutb said.
But political analyst Nabil Omar told Arab News that the elimination of terrorism requires more than just maintaining security forces.
There needs to be improved education and the spreading of correct information to improve the mentality of Egyptians, he said.
“I don’t think that the return of terrorist operations happening currently is linked to changes in politics in Egypt,” Omar said. “It has nothing to do with how well security is either. “Terrorist attacks are happening because the terrorists in question have decided to do so.”
The recent incidents in Cairo are both strange, Omar said. They targeted police forces in locations packed with civilians.
This could mean that terrorists want their attacks to be even bigger and deadlier, even if that comes at the cost of the innocent or unarmed.
“The positive thing here is that these recent terrorist attacks came after a long period of silence. During that period of time, the Egyptian military had the upper hand in relation to the terrorists – who used to be more in control before,” Omar said.
The attacks came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi described to the Munich Security Summit this week the Egyptian experience in regards to terrorism.