Kuwait closes candidate registration for fourth election in four years

Number of women running for parliament decreases for the third consecutive cycle

Kuwaiti candidates arrive to register for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kuwait City. AFP
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Kuwait has closed registration for candidates in its upcoming parliamentary elections as the country heads into its fourth vote in four years amid a political impasse between the legislative and executive branches of government.

The 2024 National Assembly elections, to take place on April 4, received 255 candidate applications.

The number of female candidates for the National Assembly decreased for the third consecutive election, to 13 this year from 27 in 2022 and 15 last year.

Jenan Boushehri – the only woman to win a seat in the last election – is running as an incumbent.

Ahmed Al Saadoun, the outgoing parliament speaker and a venerable figure in Kuwait’s parliament since its inception in 1962, stands as the oldest candidate at 89 years old.

In February, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal dissolved parliament after a lawmaker reportedly insulted the ruler and parliamentarians refused to censure the MP.

Domestic political disputes have been gripping Kuwait for years – including the overhaul of Kuwait’s welfare system – which has prevented the country from taking on debt. That has left it with little in its coffers to pay bloated public sector salaries, despite generating immense wealth from its oil reserves.

Kuwait’s parliament has been repeatedly dissolved after failing to move forward amid tensions with the government, with the country’s Constitutional Court last year annulling a 2022 decree overturning another such annulment. The country’s late emir then annulled that parliament again and held an election for a new parliament, which was annulled with the February decision.

According to Kuwait’s constitution, the term of an elected national assembly is “four Gregorian years from the date of its first meeting”.

But since the first assembly elected after its liberation from Iraq’s invasion in 1991, the country has had 14 elected parliaments, with only three completing full terms in 1992, 1999 and 2016.

Each voter has the right to cast one ballot for one candidate after a decree was approved by the late former emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah in 2012. Previously, Kuwaitis could vote for four candidates per constituency.

Kuwait is divided into five constituencies, with each electing 10 members of parliament.

The fourth district ranked first in terms of the number of candidates vying for seats in the elections with 68 candidates, while the second district was second with 53, then the fifth district with 50.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:11 PM