Shias main losers in Kuwait polls as liberals gain: Official

AFP , Sunday 28 Jul 2013

Kuwait's election results are surprising as a number of veterans lost their seats in favour of young MPs and it demonstrates the failure of Shia and Sunni radicals to get re-elected

A Kuwaiti man cast his vote at a polling station in Rumaithiya, Kuwait, Saturday, July 27, 2013. (AP Photo)

Kuwait's Shia minority lost more than half of their seats and liberals made slight gains in the Gulf state's second polls in eight months, in a major blow to radicals.

The final results, released early Sunday by judicial authorities, showed Shia candidates winning just eight seats in the 50-member parliament.

Shia candidates had won a record 17 in the previous house elected in December but scrapped in a court ruling last month. Shiites form around 30 percent of Kuwait's native population of 1.23 million.

The official figures also recorded a significant rise in turnout.

According to figures posted on the information ministry website, voter turnout was 52.5 percent, compared to December's record low of 40 percent due to opposition boycott. Average turnout at Kuwaiti polls is around 65 percent.

Some groups who had boycotted the previous polls chose to take part this time, in particular Bedouin tribes and liberal groups.

"I think that the main success in this election is the failure of Shia and Sunni radicals to get re-elected," director of Etijahat Research and Studies Centre Talal al-Kashti told AFP.

At least two Shia and two Sunni religious radicals, who were accused of inciting sectarian tension, failed in their bid for re-election.

"The composition of this parliament is representative of various components of the Kuwaiti society. Accordingly, I believe it will be very quiet ... and will cooperate with the government," said Kashti.

Liberals, Shia, Sunni Islamists, merchants and almost all Bedouin tribes have representatives in parliament.

The Liberals, who had no seat in the previous parliament, won at least three this time. Sunni Islamists increased their presence from five to seven seats and tribal groups have maintained their strength of 24 seats.

"The election results are surprising as a number of veterans lost their seats in favour of young MPs. There was a big retreat for controversial figures," political analyst Madhi al-Khamees wrote on his Twitter account.

Kashti said unlike the previous six parliaments which were dissolved due to political disputes, "it looks promising this parliament could complete its four-year term."

The higher turnover came despite sweltering summer heat in the desert emirate as the mercury hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 fahrenheit); Muslim Ramadan fasting; and calls by the opposition to boycott the ballots.

Only two women were elected compared to three in the previous parliament.

And the new parliament includes as many as 26 new faces, reflecting the desire of Kuwaiti voters for change in the hope of an end to ongoing political crises.

The opposition had called for a boycott in protest against the government's amendment of the key electoral law, even though it was upheld by the constitutional court.

The opposition says the amendment enabled the government to manipulate the outcome of polls.

Kashti said it appears from the election results and voter turnout that the opposition had lost some of its popular appeal.

Kuwait is a member of OPEC and pumps 3.0 million barrels of oil daily. Thanks to high oil price, the emirate boasts assets in excess of $400 billion but development was stalled because of political disputes.

It was the first state in the Gulf to adopt parliamentary democracy in 1962. Parliament enjoys legislative and monitoring powers but the government is formed from outside elected MPs and is headed by a senior member of the Al-Sabah ruling family.

The cabinet is expected to resign later Sunday as required by the constitution after every election to clear way to form a new government.

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