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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs