Kuwaitis go to the polls for the seventh time in just over a decade

Kuwaitis go to the polls for the seventh time in just over a decade

| Tuesday 06 June 2023

Kuwaitis elect their Parliament on Tuesday, June 6, during the seventh legislative election since 2012 in this rich oil state in the Gulf undermined by repeated political crises . More than 793,000 voters are called to the polls to choose 50 new deputies, after the invalidation of the September 2022 elections. Some 207 people, including 13 women, are in the running: in 20 years, never has a legislative election brought together so few candidates. Polling stations will open at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and close twelve hours later. The results will be announced on Wednesday, according to the official KUNA news agency.

Fearing a strong abstention, the authorities posted large banners in the streets of the capital to call on citizens to vote en masse. Despite the climate of general weariness, human rights activist Hadeel Buqrais says she will go to the polls. "Boycotting would be tantamount to giving up my rights (...) I have to participate, even if I do not expect the new parliament to tackle the issues" related to human rights, she told AFP.

Although the keys to power remain mainly in the hands of the ruling Al Sabah family, Kuwait enjoys an active political life and has an influential Parliament, unlike other monarchies in the region. Elected officials thus have important prerogatives there, do not hesitate to demand accountability from ministers who are part of the royal family and who are accused of mismanagement, even corruption. But this permanent standoff between the executive and the parliamentarians has resulted in a waltz of governments and the dissolution of the Assembly on numerous occasions over the past ten years.

In March, the Constitutional Court invalidated the legislative elections of 2022, ruling in favor of the restoration of the previous Parliament, resulting from the 2020 elections. These two legislative elections had been won by the opposition, in particular Islamists, who had boycotted the elections ten years, until 2022, to denounce the interference of the executive power in the electoral process. In early April, the small monarchy formed its seventh government in three years. But, a few days later, the emir of Kuwait dissolved parliament and called for new legislation. The 85-year-old Emir Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah usually stays away from political life in favor of the crown prince, Meshaal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, himself 82 years old.

The 4.5 million inhabitants of this small country regularly complain about the deterioration of infrastructure and public services in the country. "Kuwait is not doing well ," says Bader Al-Saif, a professor at the University of Kuwait, for whom the elections "are not the only solution". "The political system urgently needs innovation ," he said, denouncing "the absence of leadership in the Kuwaiti political class, whose actors vary little, whether in government or in parliament."

The country, whose nearly 30% of GDP depends on the hydrocarbons sector, holds nearly 7% of the world's crude oil reserves and is one of the main oil exporters in the world. But political instability has dampened investors' appetite for Kuwait and hampered the reforms the country with its poorly diversified economy needs. A situation that contrasts with that of its powerful neighbors in the Gulf, which are multiplying pharaonic projects.

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