KUWAIT: Shiite candidates won as many as 15 seats in the 50-member National Assembly for the first time ever in a general election that was boycotted by the opposition which claimed turnout was just 26.7 percent. Speaking after an emergency meeting of the opposition, former Islamist MP Khaled Al-Sultan said that “based on information available to the opposition, the turnout of voters was very low at 26.7 percent”. The figure was confirmed by the website of the Information Ministry which was carrying the latest results of the counting of the ballots. There has so far been no official figures on the turnout by the National Election Commission.
Former Assembly speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun described the election as “unconstitutional” while former MP Faisal Al-Mislem called on elected MPs to resign after the clear popular verdict in the election which came through the massive boycott. The boycott was mainly in the tribal fourth and fifth electoral districts where turnout was reported at 22 percent and 20 percent respectively, while most voting took place in the first constituency, heavily populated by Shiites. The 15 seats won by the Shiites are the largest ever as they held only seven seats in the scrapped 2012 Assembly and nine in the 2009 house. For the first time, Shiites won seats in all the five districts, particularly in the tribal constituencies. The National Islamic Alliance, the largest Shiite group, won five seats, one in each district for the first time ever.
Women also returned to the Assembly as three female candidates won seats – Maasouma Al-Mubarak getting re-elected in addition to Safa Al-Hashem and Thekra Al-Rasheedi. Four women MPs were elected in 2009 for the first time ever while no women MPs were elected in the scrapped 2012 Assembly.
Sunni Islamists and tribal candidates, who formed the backbone of the majority in 2012 Assembly, were the main losers, with the first reduced to just four members compared to 23 in the 2012 Assembly, and the latter losing as many as six seats and winning just 19. With the introduction of the single-vote system and the massive, almost total boycott by the main tribes of Awazem, Mutair and Ajman which together normally hold around 17 seats, smaller tribes and non-tribal communities took the opportunity and won seats.
The Awazem, Mutair and Ajman tribes, with a population of well over 400,000 people, won only a single seat – Khaled Al-Adwah, who was re-elected. Among the prominent winners are Shiite MPs Adnan Abdulsamad, Faisal Al-Duwaisan, Saleh Ashour, Hussein Al-Qallaf and Abdulhameed Dashti. Others include Ali Al-Rashed, Ali Al-Omair, Ahmad Al-Mulaifi and Askar Al-Enezi. Mulaifi and Rashed immediately announced they will contest the speaker’s post while Omair is reportedly planning to do the same. MP Saadoun Hammad said he will contest the post of deputy speaker.
All the opposition groups are not represented in the Assembly because of the total boycott. Immediately after the ballots closed, the opposition held an emergency meeting to discuss its future course of action.
Earlier, state media and senior officials passionately appealed to citizens to cast their vote in order to achieve political stability in the state. In Salwa, only a few people showed up after the centre opened. In the nearby area of Rumaithiya, there was more activity in the predominantly Shiite constituency but still far below that in February poll or in 2009. “I believe that voting is a national duty especially after the emir has urged us,” Nadya Mandani, a public sector employee said after voting in Rumeithiya. “I am very optimistic that the next parliament will be good and will cooperate with the government to resolve our problems,” she said.
In the past, its candidates have called on supporters to cast their additional ballots for allies. They say such informal affiliations are crucial due to a ban on political parties. “The old system was unfair for people in some areas of Kuwait,” 28-year-old Dalal Al-Aboud said at a polling station in a suburb on the edge of Kuwait City, where there was a steady trickle of voters. “I think it will be better if we try this new method, then we judge if it is fair or not.”
Near a polling station in the south of the country, where tribal candidates have polled strongly in the past, Ahmed Al-Azemi said he would not vote because his tribe was boycotting. “The Azemi family, we are against the election,” he said. “The new parliament will last only a month. A National Assembly without the opposition is useless.” Around him older men sat drinking tea and arguing about the boycott. Asked who had voted, three of the 10 raised their hands, to shouts from the others.
University professor Alia Shuaib said women, who received the right to vote in 2005, were still finding it an uplifting experience to cast their ballots. “I believe it is my duty as a woman and as a Kuwaiti national to vote,” she said. “It is a pleasure to get up, dress, get my papers and vote. It is breathtaking,” the 45-year-old said. “I believe every person should vote and put the right people in parliament. We want educated people, the best.”