Kuwait election brings little change to parliament or hope to overcome years of deadlock

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Voters in Kuwait sent most of their lawmakers back to parliament in the third election in as many years amid widespread frustration over the current political stalemate, results show. published on Wednesday.

Thirty-seven lawmakers retained their seats in the 50-member assembly after Tuesday’s elections, the official KUNA news agency reported. Authorities did not release an official turnout figure, which analysts expected to be low.

Kuwait is unique among Gulf Arab countries in having a democratically elected parliament that exercises some control over the ruling family – which nevertheless appoints the government and can dissolve the assembly at will.

In recent years, the impasse between the appointed government and the assembly has prevented the enactment of even fundamental reforms in the small oil-rich country.

The last election, held in September, provided a mandate for change, with a majority of incumbents walking out of the chamber. But in March, the Constitutional Court overturned the decree dissolving the previous assembly, restoring the body that was elected in 2020. The ruling family then dissolved that chamber for a second time, setting up this week’s vote.

Only one woman was elected to the 50-member assembly this time around, while the last parliament had two and the one before it was all-male. Women’s rights activists say the country is regressing in part because of the growing power of conservative Islamists and tribal members in parliament.

Marzouq al-Ghanim, an influential politician who served as parliament speaker in 2020, may soon return to office after winning re-election. Coming from a powerful family, considered representative of the country’s business community, he strongly criticized the outgoing Prime Minister of Kuwait, who is the son of his octogenarian emir in power.

Al-Ghanim is expected to face off against Ahmed al-Saadoun, a veteran opposition politician who served as parliament speaker from 2022. Al-Saadoun retained his seat but won less than half of the 12,000 votes he won in last September.

Kuwait’s political stalemate deepened following the death in 2020 of its ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, a veteran diplomat who ruled the country for nearly 15 years.

The 91-year-old was succeeded by his ailing half-brother Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, with Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah assuming day-to-day power. Both are over 80 and the line of succession after Sheikh Meshal is unclear.

Sheikh Nawaf’s son, Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, was appointed prime minister last year but has recently come under heavy criticism from al-Ghanim and others.

Kuwait is one of the richest countries in the world, with the sixth largest oil reserves and cradle-to-grave welfare for its 1.5 million citizens. But many say the government has failed to properly invest in education, health care and other services.

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