Kuwaitis vote in by-elections to replace 5 MPs who quit

AFP , Thursday 26 Jun 2014

File Photo: Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (top C) attends the opening of the 14th session of Parliament in Kuwait City December 16, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Kuwaitis were voting Thursday in by-elections called to replace five MPs who resigned after parliament rejected a request to grill the prime minister over alleged graft.

Seventy-two candidates, including five women, are in the race for the seats that are being contested in three of the five electoral districts. Voting ends at 1700 GMT and results are expected a few hours later.

The results are not expected to change the composition of the 50-seat parliament, elected last July, which is overwhelmingly loyal to the government of the oil-rich emirate.

Like they did in the previous two general polls, in December 2012 and last July, most opposition groups are boycotting the election in protest at amendments to the electoral law.

Opposition MPs Riyadh al-Adasani, Abdulkarim al-Kundari and Hussein al-Mutairi quit about two months ago after parliament rejected their demand to question Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, over allegations he gave cash handouts to lawmakers.

A few days later, Ali al-Rashed, a former parliament speaker, and Safa al-Hashem, the only female member, resigned, saying the situation in the Gulf state had reached a "deadlock".

The by-elections are being held amid a new political crisis over allegations that two former senior officials plotted a coup and were engaged in a major corruption scam.

The high-profile case, involving senior members of the ruling family, prompted Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to appeal for calm in a televised address on Wednesday. The ruler urged Kuwaitis to allow the judiciary to handle the issue.

Between mid-2006 and last year, parliament was dissolved six times and there were more than a dozen governments. 

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