News / Middle East

Divided Kuwait to Vote for New Parliament

Supporters are seen walking next to a campaign banner of Osama Yousif Al-Tahoos, candidate from Third District, Kuwait City, July 26, 2013.Supporters are seen walking next to a campaign banner of Osama Yousif Al-Tahoos, candidate from Third District, Kuwait City, July 26, 2013.
x
Supporters are seen walking next to a campaign banner of Osama Yousif Al-Tahoos, candidate from Third District, Kuwait City, July 26, 2013.
Supporters are seen walking next to a campaign banner of Osama Yousif Al-Tahoos, candidate from Third District, Kuwait City, July 26, 2013.
Phillip Walter Wellman
Kuwaitis will be voting for a new parliament on Saturday for the third time since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. The election follows protracted political tension in the Gulf state, and observers say it is unlikely to help mend deep-rooted divisions within the country.
 
A Kuwaiti court in June called for the new poll after deeming the parliament elected in December 2012 unconstitutional. The decision came one year after the previous opposition-led assembly was dissolved for other irregularities, a move that sparked major street protests.
 
While Kuwait has avoided sustained unrest like that recently seen in other Arab nations, many citizens frustrated by political deadlock have been publicly voicing their grievances and demanding governmental reform.

Late last year, the country witnessed some of the largest demonstrations in its history when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to denounce a major change to voting procedures.
 
The new rule, which was handed down directly by the emir, reduces the number of votes each citizen can cast in parliamentary elections from four to one.
 
Supporters say the change is aimed at preventing future political stalemate; opponents say it stops the opposition from forming a majority in parliament.
 
The amendment has been upheld for Saturday’s poll and several opposition groups are boycotting the election as a result.
 
Shafeeq Ghabra, a professor of political science at Kuwait University, said voter turnout also is expected to be low.

"People have cold feet when it comes to this election and some are assuming that this existing parliament to be elected will not also last for more than a year," said Ghabra.
 
Kuwait’s political system is the most open in the Gulf, with members of parliament allowed to pass legislation and question Cabinet ministers chosen by the emir.

Constant disputes between parliamentarians and ministers, however, have been hindering economic reform and development.

Despite being one of the richest countries per capita thanks to its vast oil wealth, Kuwait lags behind most of its Gulf neighbors when it comes to initiating new modernization projects.
 
Ahmed al-Obaid, a student at the American University of Kuwait and a voter, said modernization is an important issue among many Kuwaitis his age.
 
"We want the government to build something for Kuwaiti people such as the universities, the hospitals. We want to be like neighboring countries, such as Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia," he said.
 
Kuwait-based economist Hajjaj Bokhdour said the country has tremendous potential.
 
"The economical problem in Kuwait is not because of the resources, is not because of the [lack of] opportunities, it is because of management," said Bokhdour.

The upcoming election will see 50 parliamentarians selected from five constituencies.

According to the Ministry of Information, more than 300 candidates will be vying for seats. As political parties are outlawed in Kuwait, all are running on an individual basis.
 
Despite the parliament’s relatively strong powers, the emir still has the final say in all state affairs.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs