KUWAIT CITY, Nov 26: The citizens of Kuwait on Saturday elected their representatives to the 50-member National Assembly for the third time in four years. Only one female candidate, Safa Al-Hashem, was able to secure a seat in the new Parliament along with 12 opposition figures who boycotted the previous elections while the number of Shiite MPs decreased from six to five.
About 50 percent of new candidates won theww parliamentary seats and many former MPs ended up as big losers including Ahmed Lari, Ahmed Baqer, Hamad Al-Matar, Abdul-Rahman Al-Anjari, Fahad Al-Khana, Yousef Al-Zalzalah, Ali Al-Omair, Faisal Al-Duwaisan and Abdullah Al-Turaiji.
Following are the preliminary unofficial results as of press time:
1. Adnan Abdul-Samad (4,238 votes)
2. Issa Ahmed Al-Kandari (4,076 votes)
3. Mohammed Mirwe Al-Hadiya (2,910 votes)
4. Abdullah Yousef Al-Roumi (2,735 votes)
5. Adel Jassem Al-Damkhi (2,713 votes)
6. Saleh Ahmed Ashour (2,529 votes)
7. Mubarak Salem Al-Harees (2,394 votes)
8. Osama Essa Al-Shaheen (2,202 votes)
9. Khalid Hussein Shatti (2,154 votes)
10. Saleh Khureshdi (2,134 votes)
1. Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanim (4,078 votes)
2. Riyadh Ahmed Al-Adsani (3,471 votes)
3. Khalil Ibrahim Al-Saleh (2,861 votes)
4. Hamad Saif Al-Harshani (2,341 votes)
5. Jaman Zhaher Al-Harbash (2,274 votes)
6. Mohammed Barrak Al-Mutair (2,043votes)
7. Rakan Yousif Al-Nisf (1,819 votes)
8. Khalaf Dumaithir Al-Anazi (1,860 votes)
9. Omar Abdul-Mohsen Al-Tabtabaei (1,707 votes)
10. Ouda Ouda Al-Ruwaiei (1,720 votes)
1. Abdul-Wahab Al-Babatain (3,476 votes)
2. Sadoun Hammad Al-Otaibi (3,173 votes)
3. Yousef Saleh Al-Fadalah (3,143 votes)
4. Safa Al-Hashem (3,061 votes)
5. Abdul-Kareen Al-Kandari (3,019 votes)
6. Waleed Musaed Al-Tabtabaei (2,386 votes)
7. Mohammed Hussein Al-Dilal (2,275 votes)
8. Mohammed Naser Al-Jabri (2,169 votes)
9. Khalil Abdullah Aboul (2,157 votes)
10. Ahmed Nabil Al-Fadel (1,954 votes)
1. Thamer Saad Al-Zufairi;
2. Mohammed Hayef Al-Mutairi;
3. Saad Khanfour Al- Rashidi;
4. Shuaib Al-Muweizri;
5. Mubarak Saad Al- Hajraf;
6. Ali Salem Al-Daqbasi;
7. Abdullah Fahad Al-Anazi;
8. Mubarak Al-Khrainej;
9. Faraaj Zain Al- Erbeed;
1. Naif Mirdas Al-Ajmi;
2-Mohammed Hadi Al-Huwailah;
3. Hamdan Salem Al-Azmi;
4. Al-Humaidi Bader Al-Subaiei;
5. Talal Saad AL-Sahli;
6. Khalid Mohammed Al-Otaibi;
7. Faisal Mohammed Al-Kandari;
8. Mubarak Abdullah Al-Ajmi;
9. Majed Musaed Al-Mutairi;
10. Hamoud Abdullah Al-Khudair.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah has sent cables to senior State officials and government bodies, voicing appreciation for efforts they made to provide favorable conditions for the National Assembly (Parliament) elections to make it easy for voters to cast their votes on Saturday.
His Highness the Amir sent cables of thanks to Chief of the National Guard His Highness Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, Deputy Chief of the National Guard Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al- Sabah and Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Cables of thanks were also sent to a host of ministers and chiefs of state bodies.
His Highness the Amir lauded the huge turnout by the citizens and their positive response to national duty and responsibility, as well as the spirit of cooperation that dominated the scene between candidates and the electorate. Furthermore, His Highness the Amir voiced deep thanks to members of the Higher Judiciary Commission for their hard efforts supervising the elections.
Similarly His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has sent cables to senior State officials and government bodies, voicing appreciation for efforts they have put up to provide favorable conditions for the National Assembly (Parliament) elections to make it easy for voters to cast their ballots on Saturday.
His Highness the Crown Prince sent cables of thanks to Chief of the National Guard His Highness Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah, Deputy Chief of the National Guard Sheikh Mishaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al- Hamad Al-Sabah and Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al- Sabah. Thanks cables were also sent to a host of ministers and chiefs of state bodies.
A mix of factors brought both optimistic and dutiful Kuwaiti voters to the polling stations. A 69-yearold woman who came along with her 35- and 38-yearold daughters to the voting centre at Al Weheb School in Jabriya, shared that education, economy and health should be the top priorities for the new government. All three women, cast their in favour of new and younger candidates. “I think we need to see new faces in the parliament, we need MPs who are energised and eager to take on the challenges we face as a country today,” she remarked.
Another young voter, a 29-year-old woman, said of her decision, “I chose to for a candidate based on their activities and their mentality. I hope the next parliament will be excellent and that the government will listen and pay more attention to the youth.”
Several voters felt that the women candidates were too small in number this election, “I don’t think the women really stand a chance. Apart from Safa Al Hashem, they are not well known,” one voter in the third constituency told the Arab Times.
Other women voters shared that women’s issues were the deciding factor for their vote, “I voted for someone who represents my liberal views, has an interest in women’s rights and will fight for Kuwaiti women. This is a very personal issue for me because my late husband was non-Kuwaiti, so when he passed away, my children did not become Kuwaiti. I want the same rights as a Kuwaiti man and I am hopeful of change which is why I’ve come here today to vote.” While education, health and the economy were often stated as important priorities, some voters felt that security was most important, “I have voted twice before. This time I picked a candidate who is honest and strong. Peace and security are the most important in Kuwait today so we need to pick strong leaders who can make the right decisions during difficult times.” “I came out to exercise my voting right as a citizen but I am not optimistic. I did not vote for a woman candidate even though I am a woman because they didn’t make enough of an impression on me. I think Kuwait needs the best MPs regardless of gender so it is important to cast our votes for character,” another voter exiting the polling station commented. “Many years ago, Kuwait was spoken of as a diamond in the Gulf. Now Dubai and Doha have outpaced us and we have stagnated. We want to be number one again, people want change,” a retired public servant shared his concern. A volunteer at the hospitality booths set up by candidates, shared, “We are very excited today and we are hoping the next Parliament will be the best one yet. We came here at 7:00 in the morning and we will stay the whole day. I am a supporting a candidate who is a law expert with good experience and a clean record. He has proved himself in many situations in the past. I hope he wins a seat because I am sure he will deliver on his promises.”
While Kuwait’s two previous elections yielded poor turnout due to opposition boycotts, voters said they were encouraged by seeing their candidates running this time around. “Their return is needed to strike a political balance in the country. They are more capable of monitoring the government actions,” retired voter Ibrahim Al-Tulaihi told AFP at a polling station south of Kuwait City. “A wise opposition is needed because we don’t want more political disputes,” Jarrah Mohammad, a government employee, said after casting his ballot. Unusually for the oil-rich Gulf Arab states, Kuwait has an elected parliament with powers to hold ministers to account, even though senior members of the ruling Al-Sabah family hold all top Cabinet posts. The set-up has led to repeated standoffs between lawmakers and the ruling family and this is the seventh general election in a decade. The election comes against a backdrop of discontent among Kuwaiti citizens over mounting cutbacks in the cradle-to-grave welfare system they have long enjoyed as a slump in world oil prices hits government revenues.
His Highness the Amir dissolved the last parliament after MPs called for ministers to be grilled over the cuts to state subsidies. Islamist opposition candidate Hamad al-Matar, a former MP, said he expects the opposition to win a good number of seats in the 50-member Parliament to prevent the government from raising charges. “There will be no charges on citizens because we have no problem with finances. We have a problem with government management and corruption,” Matar told AFP. The opposition is fielding 30 candidates among a total of 293 hopefuls, including 14 women. “We want the next parliament to stop the government from hiking prices,” said pensioner Maasouma Abdullah. But others said they could accept a slight raise because of dwindling oil revenues.
“I think we should accept some reasonable raises but not on power and water. Oil revenues have dropped sharply and we should take measures,” voter Jabr al-Jalahma told AFP. Opposition candidates campaigned heavily for economic and social reform and an end to what they charge is rampant corruption. The election comes with Kuwait facing its most acute budget crisis in years. Oil income, which accounts for 95 percent of government revenues, has nosedived by 60 percent over the past two years.
Kuwait posted its first budget deficit of $15 billion last year following 16 years of surpluses. And the emirate has fewer alternatives than its Gulf neighbours, partly because of its elected legislature, analysts say. “It has built an economic model completely funded by oil and natural gas revenue to support its workforce, but with its empowered parliament it has less fl exibility than any other state in the region to abandon that model,” US-based intelligence firm Stratfor said in a recent report. Kuwaiti citizens make up around 30 percent of the State’s population of 4.4 million.
A total of 483,000 are eligible to vote. Speaking to the Arab Times at a polling center in the Third Constituency, Al-Tabtabaei said he expects the opposition to win 50 percent of the seats and be the majority in the Parliament. Asked if he supports the idea of limiting the tenure of Parliament members to one or two legislative terms in order to pump new blood into the legislature, Al-Tabtabaei clarified the Constitution does not allow this and he prefers that things are done according to the Constitution.
He pointed out that it all depends on the confidence of voters in their candidates, indicating the Parliament must consist of old and new members. On the austerity measures taken by the government to solve the budget deficit, Al-Tabtabaei affirmed support for such measures provided they are not at the expense of citizens. He added austerity measures should start with reducing the government’s expenses, foreign donations and overseas treatment. On the other hand, Kheitan Football Club Manager Mohammed Yousef voiced support for the proposal to limit the tenure of parliamentarians for new blood to come in and make changes.
He said the previous Parliaments could not stop the government from taking certain decisions like the fuel price hike because of old MPs who have been in the legislature for several years. He stressed the need to have new members who are keen on making positive changes to develop the sports, education and health sectors in addition to addressing pressing issues. On the austerity measures, Yousef asserted the citizens do not welcome these measures due to their negative impact on livelihood. He urged his fellow voters to choose good candidates with the ability to stop the government from taking these measures.
Talking about the return of opposition figures to the Parliament, Yousef recognizes the importance of the opposition in the legislative authority for the latter to have clear objectives. Furthermore, Fahad Saadoun Al- Otaibi, son of former MP Sadoun Hamad Al-Otaibi, said his father is an independent candidate who is ready to work with both the opposition and pro-government MPs, adding that his father will focus on the interests of all citizens.
Abdulrahman Duaij, a senior voter in the First Constituency, stated the voting process this year seems smoother than the last one; commending the Ministry of Interior for doing a great job. He hopes this election will give birth to a National Assembly which will take the State of Kuwait to where it belongs. In the meantime, during a tour of voting centers that started in the First Constituency, Information Minister Sheikh Salman Al-Hmoud Al-Sabah praised the Interior Ministry for doing its best to ensure the election is smooth. He also lauded the Ministry of Information for making the electoral process as transparent as possible. Speaking to reporters when he visited Abdullah Al-Ahmed School in Jaber Al-Ali which is part of the Fifth Constituency, he pointed out that more than 80 regional and international media outlets are covering this election which is a source of pride for Kuwait
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim, Ahmed Al-Naqeeb and Cinatra Fernandes Arab Times Staff and Agencies