Poll challenge denied as voters pine for stability

Photo by Rezk Tawfik Standing in front of a huge congregation of his supporters, former Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim, opened his electoral campaign headquarters on Nov 22.
Photo by Rezk Tawfik Standing in front of a huge congregation of his supporters, former Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim, opened his electoral campaign headquarters on Nov 22.

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 22: The Constitutional Court rejected Tuesday the petition of Attorney Hani Hussain to cancel the decree on the dissolution of the 2013 National Assembly and the upcoming election. In his petition, the lawyer pointed out that the decree did not meet conditions for dissolving the Assembly so there was no legal ground to call for fresh elections.

He demanded for cancellation of the decree, reinstatement of the dissolved Assembly, and issuance of a constitutional dissolution decree if necessary. Meanwhile, Ministry of Interior Undersecretary Lieutenant General Sulaiman Al-Fahad issued a directive calling all reserve personnel to active duty in preparation for the election; starting from Nov 22, 2016 until further notice.

On the other hand, former Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim opened his electoral campaign headquarters, on Nov 22, in the presence of a huge congregation of his supporters.

In his speech, he tackled the current affairs and the allegations launched by some against the recently-dissolved Parliament. Regarding his selection of the political campaign motto “Truth without Boundaries”, Al-Ghanim stressed that his aim is to avoid “political dust” and political deception, indicating, “We should not forget that we are one nation. I am addressing those who are impartial, not the biased”.

The former Speaker described the 2013 Parliament as the Parliament that restored political stability after a series of confrontations, protests and even the storming of the Parliament building. However, he was quick to add that he was not there to judge the performance of the 2013 Parliament and that people are the source of legislation. He said, “The upcoming election is for the future and not for the past. It is not an option to be captives of the past.” Al-Ghanim indicated that the last Parliament had passed 114 laws, which exceeds those passed by any Kuwaiti Parliament that has been in place since 1963. He stressed that the one thing the Parliament did not do was “look down at the past Parliaments because the success of any Parliament is the success of Kuwait and its people”.

Al-Ghanim elaborated his several achievements as the Speaker of the National Assembly and other personal achievements in his political path. He emphasized more on national unity, which he insisted is the key for surviving any turbulence. Al-Ghanim added that “Elections should not be the source of division among the people of one nation.” Meanwhile, Second Constituency candidate Alya Maqdis said Kuwait has a lot to offer to tourists but it can only join the list of preferred tourist destinations if it overcomes obstacles in this field.

In a press statement, Maqdis stressed that any country should have the key elements to be a destination preferred by tourists, including environmental and geographic components and services. She said Kuwait’s location is distinguished among Gulf nations because the environment here is good owing to lack of salinity. She added the sea current in Kuwait is not as strong as that of other Gulf States, indicating that tourism in the Gulf is a new industry. She underscored the importance of developing the tourism sector, since the number of tourists who traveled to different parts of the world last year exceeded the 250 million threshold and they spent more than $475 million. She asserted people make tourism, so with efficient planning of the concerned authorities, this sector could bring good returns for the country and its people. She urged the concerned authorities to develop tourist spots, especially since Kuwait has seven islands including Failaka. She wondered why these islands are being ignored, while stressing the need to transform them into tourist attractions and follow the footsteps of neighboring Gulf States which excelled in this field.

Kuwaiti civil servant Nasser Ahmed sits in a luxurious tent, taking advantage of the perks of election campaigning in the country seen as a pioneer of democracy in the Gulf. The middle-aged Ahmed has been worried that austerity measures initiated after oil prices fell sharply will gnaw away at his salary and benefits. But despite those concerns, and the candidate’s fiery speech, Ahmed enjoyed an opulent open-buffet dinner put on by the host — a tradition Kuwait. “I am just wondering if this one will finally bring stability,” he said in reference to a series of political crises that have rocked the OPEC member since mid-2006.

During that decade, the Parliament has been dissolved five times by the Amir due to political disputes and twice by courts over procedural flaws. The most recent occasion the Amir exercised those powers was last month when he called a snap election following a crisis over petrol price hikes. Kuwait’s democracy has been marred by disputes which intensified in the past decade with the opposition holding massive street protests demanding reforms that would effectively limit the ruling family’s powers

In 2014, an opposition alliance demanded broad reforms including a multi-party system and an elected government to be led by the winning party. “I think the main cause of disputes is that the ruling family-led government essentially does not believe in democracy,” said analyst Anwar Al-Rasheed. “Some government and ruling family quarters believe that issuing the 1962 Constitution was a strategic mistake,” said Rasheed, who heads the recently established Kuwait Liberals Movement. Senior royals and government officials have repeatedly rejected such criticisms. Rasheed said neighbouring Gulf states had put pressure on Kuwait to suppress democracy. “They simply want to see the Kuwaiti democratic experiment dead so it does not affect them,” he told AFP. Disputes between the government and lawmakers have been blamed for hindering development projects. Despite its shortcomings, Kuwait’s democracy offers relative freedoms of the press and expression. Women have enjoyed full political rights since 2005, and have since been elected to Parliament and appointed to the Cabinet. There are 14 women running for office among over 200 candidates.

Only the head of state is shielded against criticism in public, and several of his detractors including prominent former opposition lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak have been jailed for doing so. This year’s campaign has however been dominated by economic issues after the government increased the prices of fuel and services. With a native population of just 1.3 million people and pumping about 3.0 million barrels of oil per day, Kuwait has offered its citizens generous welfare conditions including high wages and no taxes. The idea of changing that and taxing citizens or controlling their wages has had a major impact on society. “I will propose a law in the next Parliament to ban the government from reducing subsidies or touching the salaries of Kuwaitis,” former lawmaker Abdulkarim Al-Kundari told an election rally. An overwhelming majority of candidates have issued similar pledges.


By Abubakar A. Ibrahim, Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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