KUWAIT CITY, Nov 26: After a pleasant drizzle that set the mood for election day, gates at the polling centers opened with senior citizens leading the queues early morning Saturday. Every polling center across the State of Kuwait witnessed the same scenario in the morning as senior citizens flocked to the centers to vote for candidates whom they believe has the future of the country at heart.
Meanwhile, former MP and opposition member who boycotted the 2012 and 2013 elections Waleed Al- Tabtabaei stressed that the opposition figures returned to the election arena in a bid to change the constituency system and repeal bad laws like those on citizenship and DNA; as well as to fight against corruption and wastage of public funds.
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. With the slogan, “My Vote is for my Country,” this election witnessed the highest female voter turnout since women obtained their right to vote. According to statistics from the Ministry of Information, four constituencies have higher percentage of female voters, while that of the Fifth Constituency is almost the same as the previous election.
This has prompted several political activists and analysts to stress the importance of addressing issues concerning women — a notion that some candidates took into account and used in their campaigns. The statistics also showed that due to return of the opposition to the electoral race and with citizens being more aware of their political duty, the expected voter turnout is higher than the last. Unfortunately, this does not increase the chances of candidates winning the race and it cannot be used as an indicator of effectiveness.
Moreover, political activist Nabeela Al-Anjari pointed out it is impossible to implement political reforms in democratic countries if women are excluded from the legislative process. Speaking to reporters in Omar Ibn Al-Ass Elementary School in Hateen — one of the voting centers in the Third Constituency, Al-Anjari said 15 women contested this election. She believes this number would have been higher if the previous Parliament was not dissolved because the female candidates would have more time to prepare. She thinks the link between social life and political arena left women at a disadvantage for they are not allowed to visit diwaniyas where they can discuss their electoral platform with their constituents.
She clarified this does not mean that culture is to be blamed as women need to exert more into the equation, and work harder to make themselves known and for their messages to be heard. She said a number of voters have never heard of some female candidates.
While visiting a voting center in Yarmouk before heading to Al-Adelia to vote, Third Constituency candidate and former MP Safaa Al-Hashem called on all eligible voters to cast their votes for it is in their power to choose representatives who will make a difference. She also warned those who might have been planning not to vote that by doing so, the people who let them down in the past will take parliamentary seats once again
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff