Kuwaitis heading to the polls - again

Comes after previous parliament disbanded by ruling emir, who said some MPs had abused democracy and were a threat to stability.

kuwait emir 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
kuwait emir 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Kuwaitis will head to the polls on Saturday to elect a new parliament for the sixth time in the last three years. The need for elections comes after the previous Kuwaiti parliament, known as the General Assembly, was disbanded by the ruling emir Sheikh 'Sabah A-'Sabah on March 19. The emir justified the decision by saying that some members of parliament had abused democracy and were a threat to stability. He said the decision to dissolve the government was made in order to "safeguard the security and stability of the country," local media reported. The emir was referring to the attempt by a number of parliamentarians to question Prime Minister Sheikh Na'sr Mohammed Al-Ahmad A-'Sabah over mismanagement, constitutional violations and misuse of public funds by his office. One such instance was the cancellation on Sunday by the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) of Kuwait - under the chairmanship of the prime minister - of a deal estimated at several billion dollars with the American chemical giant Dow Chemicals. The deal came under scrutiny by opposition members of the Kuwaiti parliament who claimed that the deal was overpriced since Dow's value had fallen from $51 billion to $17 billion due to the financial slowdown. There are 210 candidates running for the 50 seats that are available; 16 of the candidates are women and only six parliamentarians from the previously assembly are running for reelection. Each constituency elects 10 members, while each voter is allowed to cast a maximum of four votes. While voters in the West vote for candidates of political parties, most voters in Kuwait will vote for candidates belonging to their tribe, who, like traditional Western political parties, will then form alliances among themselves. "Yes, I will vote", the Kuwaiti blogger Q80-ChillGirl told The Media Line. "I hope the new assembly will be more stable then the previous one." Mutairi is the largest single tribe with well over 20,000 voters, followed by Rasheedi with around 17,000 voters. In the previous election the Mutairi won five seats and the Rasheedi won four seats. Analysts say that dissolving the parliament and heading for new elections will not solve fundamental differences of opinion between the government appointed by the emir and MPs from both the Islamic and liberal camps. One solution to shore up political stability and obstruct the option of grilling the prime minister would be to re-merge the position of prime minister and crown prince, which was split in 2003. The last assembly lasted for only 10 months, a record low for any of the previous 12 parliaments since Kuwait embraced parliamentary democracy in 1962. Of the 12 assemblies, two were suspended for a total of 11 years while four were dissolved and fresh elections held within the stipulated period of two months.