Kuwait candidates register for legislative polls amid ongoing crisis

AFP , Thursday 27 Jun 2013

Candidate registration for parliamentary elections starts in Kuwait amid a political crisis that has stalled development in the wealthy Gulf state

Kuwaiti citizens wait in line to cast their vote at a polling station in Rumaithiya, Kuwait on Saturday, 1 December, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

Candidates began registering Thursday for Kuwait's second parliamentary elections in eight months amid a political crisis that has stalled development in the wealthy Gulf state and a boycott by the opposition.

Hopefuls prayed that Kuwait's sixth election since mid-2006 would bring political stability and put development back on the right track.

On 16 June, the nation's top court dissolved parliament on the grounds that the last election was unconstitutional. However, it upheld controversial changes to the electoral law that sparked a standoff with the opposition.

"We are passing through a very difficult political situation affected by high regional tension," former MP Saleh Ashour said. "The Kuwaiti people have the responsibility of safeguarding their country and achieving political stability."

Another former MP, Abdullah Al-Maayouf, expected a bigger turnout in the 27 July polls than in the 1 December election, when a widespread opposition boycott kept it to under 40 percent.

Kuwait has 435,000 eligible voters who elect a 50-member parliament for a four-year term. None of the past six legislatures have completed their terms, being dissolved either by the emir or by court order.

Leading opposition figure Mussallam Al-Barrak reiterated at a gathering late Wednesday that the opposition will not participate in the election because the reasons for boycott still exist.

"Today, we are at a crucial crossroads ... They (the regime) want to build a sheikhdom state and we want a state based on institutions and the constitution ... The next election is a crime and a conspiracy against the constitution," Barrak said.

But the main liberal opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance, and the country's largest bedouin tribe, the Awazem, said they are taking part after boycotting the December election.

Kuwait, OPEC's fourth largest producer pumping about 3.0 million barrels of oil per day, has been rocked by a series of political crises over the past seven years between MPs and the government.

Despite accumulating massive assets exceeding $400 billion from high oil prices, development projects have been stalled because of political turmoil.

Candidate registration will continue for 10 days.

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