Kuwait Elections Boycott
The opposition are hailing the boycott of Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Kuwait a success after a low voter turnout.
Parliamentary elections in Kuwait went ahead on Saturday amidst opposition calls to boycott the ballot. The opposition are calling the boycott a success after voters failed to come out in force. Opposition leaders have been quick to label Saturday’s elections “unconstitutional” and “illegitimate” due to the low voter turnout, which officially stands at 38.8 percent according to the Kuwaiti Information Ministry. The opposition claims a much lower figure, stating that 26.7 percent of Kuwaiti voters cast their ballots. The turnout of eligible voters in elections earlier this year in February was 60 percent.
The results reflected the boycott, and new faces—sixty percent of MPs—dominate the freshly elected parliament. The make-up of the new parliament contrasts sharply with the parliament elected in February when the opposition took a majority, winning thirty-four of the fifty Parliamentary seats.
According to figures released by the Kuwaiti National Election Commission, liberals, conservatives and Shi’ites made gains in the newly elected parliament. In a significant development, Shi’ite candidates secured over a third of seats for the first time, taking seventeen seats in the National Assembly. Sunni Islamists have been reduced from twenty-three to four MPs. Three women were also elected, an improvement after none were elected in the last parliament.
The opposition, a loose alliance of Islamists, tribal, liberal, and youth groups, chose to boycott the elections after the emir changed the electoral law in October. The new electoral law reduces the number of votes per person from four to one. The opposition believed the new law would give pro-government candidates an unfair advantage. The change prevents the formation of electoral alliances, which have aided opposition victories in the past.
In the weeks preceding the elections, Kuwait witnessed some of the largest street demonstrations in its history. Protestors were calling for increased transparency in government and the limiting of the emir’s executive powers. The political uncertainty is far from over—the new faces in Kuwait’s parliament will have to go some way in proving their legitimacy to the opposition.