Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
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A billboard advertising a parliamentary candidate on a main street ahead of parliamentary elections in Kuwait city on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)
Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
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A bus with a parliamentary candidate advertisement is seen in a parking lot near a polling station, ahead of parliamentary elections in Kuwait city on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)
Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
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A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)
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Updated 05 December 2020

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic

Kuwait parliamentary race kicks off under shadow of pandemic
  • More than 567,000 voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote
  • Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is holding parliamentary elections Saturday under the shadow of Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.
The oil-rich country has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a months-long nationwide lockdown earlier this year.
But while some curbs have eased, over-the-top election events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets are out, masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.
Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.
But in an effort to include all constituents, authorities have designated five schools — one in each electoral district — where they can vote, among the 102 polling stations across the country.
Election officials are expected to be in full personal protective equipment.
Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoys wide legislative powers.
Political disputes are often fought out in the open.
Parties are neither banned nor recognized, but many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.
But with more than 143,917 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.




A worker cleans desks at a polling station ahead of parliamentary elections in Abdullah Salem, Kuwait, on December 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

The polls, which open at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), will be the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.
A few electoral banners dotted through the streets have been the only reminder of the nation’s political calendar.
Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.
More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters will be eligible to choose among the 326 candidates contesting the vote, including 29 women.
Ahmad Deyain, secretary general of the opposition group Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.
The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education and the thorny issue of the “bidoon,” Kuwait’s stateless minority.
From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times after disputes between lawmakers and the ruling family-led government.
“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.
“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.
Deyain said he expected some parliamentarians in the new National Assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.
Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962, and women in 2005 won the right to vote and to stand for election.


Iran asks watchdog not to publish ‘unnecessary’ nuke details

Iran asks watchdog not to publish ‘unnecessary’ nuke details
Updated 15 min 15 sec ago

Iran asks watchdog not to publish ‘unnecessary’ nuke details

Iran asks watchdog not to publish ‘unnecessary’ nuke details
  • Iran’s nuclear department asked IAEA to avoid publishing details on its nuclear program that may cause confusion
  • On Saturday, Germany, France and Britain pressed Iran to back off its plan to develop uranium metal

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran urged the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to avoid publishing “unnecessary” details on Tehran’s nuclear program, state TV reported Sunday, a day after Germany, France and Britain said Tehran has “no credible civilian use” for its development of uranium metal.
The report quoted a statement from Iran’s nuclear department that asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to avoid publishing details on Iran’s nuclear program that may cause confusion.
“It is expected the international atomic energy agency avoid providing unnecessary details and prevent paving ground for misunderstanding” in the international community, the statement said. It did not elaborate.
On Saturday, Germany, France and Britain pressed Iran to back off its plan to develop uranium metal, calling it “the latest planned violation” of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The goal of the deal is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, something Iran insists it does not want to do.
“Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal,” they said in a joint statement. “The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications.”
On Thursday, the IAEA said Iran had informed it that it had begun installing equipment for the production of uranium metal. It said Tehran maintains its plans to conduct research and development on uranium metal production are part of its “declared aim to design an improved type of fuel.”
Iran reacted to the European statement Sunday saying Iran informed the UN nuclear watchdog nearly two decades ago of its plans for the “peaceful and conventional” production of uranium metal. It also said it provided updated information to the agency two years ago about its plans to produce silicide advanced fuel.
The statement said uranium metal is an “intermediate product” in the manufacture of uranium silicide, a fuel used in nuclear reactors that is safer and has more power capability than uranium oxide-based fuel, which Iran currently produces.
The three European nations alongside the US, Russia and China signed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that prohibited research and production of uranium metal.
President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. After the US then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.
President-elect Joe Biden, who was vice president when the deal was signed during the Obama administration, has said he hopes to return the US to the deal.