Most MPs return to Kuwait parliament after large election turnout

Officials say 62 per cent of the 834,733 Kuwaitis eligible to vote took part in this year’s election

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Kuwaitis voted this week to reinstate the majority of legislators who served in the parliament dissolved by the nation's ruler less than two months ago, in an election marked by a high turnout seen as a potential boost to confidence in the next National Assembly.

The Gulf country held its fourth elections in as many years on Thursday, and 39 of the 46 members from the previous parliament retained their seats, official results showed.

Election officials announced on Friday that 62 per cent of the 834,733 Kuwaitis who were eligible to vote took part in this year’s election.

Emir Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmad, who succeeded his half-brother in December, dissolved the last parliament after legislators used language considered unconstitutional.

Abdul Karim Al Kandari, whose public comments sparked the decree dissolving parliament, was re-elected with a high percentage of votes in his constituency.

“Kuwait model on display: no voter fatigue with 62 per cent turnout,” said Bader Al Saif, an assistant professor at Kuwait University and a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“The fourth election in as many years is within the range of the last four elections [58 per cent to 68 per cent]. That speaks to the uniqueness of the electorate who goes at it despite odds. Unique system too that allows unlimited dissolutions,” he added.

Days before the election, Sheikh Meshal addressed the nation in a Ramadan speech, urging citizens to “participate positively and actively” in the vote.

“Today I address you as a father’s letter to his children, wishing you, as we approach the 2024 National Assembly elections, to choose well those who represent you, and not to choose those whose goal is to achieve personal interest, create crises, or undermine constitutional constants,” Sheikh Meshal said

The Emir emphasised the need to fight “chaos” – a word he has used repeatedly in speeches since officially becoming ruler, following the death of Sheikh Nawaf last December.

One woman elected

Kuwait’s loosely aligned opposition includes Sunni Islamists, some Shiites, independents and tribal representatives who seek more powers for elected politicians. The 50-seat legislature will include only one woman, Jenan Boushehri, a former minister and re-elected MP from the last dissolved parliament.

Sources from Ms Boushehri’s campaign confirmed she intends to run for the deputy speaker position when parliament convenes on April 16 to elect the National Assembly’s top leadership.

“I do hope Jenan Boushehri actually goes for the deputy role and hopefully will be able to make it one day to the speakership podium as a deputy in this parliament. We’ve never had a woman represented in any of the top roles since we gained the political right to vote,” Sarah Mattar, a Kuwaiti female voter, told The National.

Women in Kuwait were granted their political rights only in 2005 to run for election and to vote.

Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al Salem submitted his government's resignation to the Emir on Saturday, state news agency Kuna reported.

Sheikh Mohammed, the holder of a Harvard University economics doctorate, has been in the role since January and is expected to be reappointed.

Under Kuwait’s constitution, a new government must be formed within two weeks of an election.

Former parliament speaker Marzouq Alghanim, a prominent politician who called for “turning a new page”, won in his constituency.

He is expected to challenge incumbent Ahmed Al Saadoun for the top job in parliament.

Kuwait has been gripped by domestic political disputes for years. The overhaul of the country's welfare system has been a major point of contention and has prevented the government from taking on debt.

That has left it with little to pay bloated public sector salaries, despite generating great wealth from its oil reserves.

Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab state with an elected parliament that can hold the government to account through measures such as votes of no confidence against cabinet ministers.

Updated: April 07, 2024, 4:04 AM