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Middle east

Low turnout at parliamentary election

Video by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-05-16

Kuwaitis voted on Saturday with little hope that their third election in three years will end a power struggle between parliament and the ruling family cabinet that has held up key economic reforms. Turnout was low as expected.

AFP - Frustrated Kuwaitis voted in the emirate's second general election in a year on Saturday, seeking to end political chaos that has halted development in the wealthy Gulf state.
   
Turnout was low in line with expectations, despite impassioned calls by candidates for electors to go and vote.
   
The official KUNA news agency said that four hours before polls closed at 8 pm (1700 GMT) turnout was only 38.3 percent, but voting picked up late in the evening.
   
Sunni Islamists, a major force in the outgoing parliament, are expected to lose ground and women are seen as winning their first seats.
   
The ballot to elect 50 MPs was called after Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the 10-month-old parliament in March, triggering the third election since May 2006.
   
It follows a series of disputes between elected MPs and the unelected cabinet chosen by the Al-Sabah family that has ruled the oil-rich nation since 1756.
   
A total of 210 hopefuls are standing for parliament for a four-year term, but analysts see little hope that the political deadlock will end, whatever the outcome.
   
Veteran opposition figure and former MP Ahmad al-Saadun alleged that influential people were interfering in the election, but stressed that "despite this, the future will be better."
   
Local volunteers from Kuwait Transparency Society were allowed into some of the 94 polling stations to monitor the ballot. "We have not recorded any violations so far," one monitor, Samar al-Abduljader, told AFP.
   
Later, head of the society Salah al-Ghazali charged that a majority of the monitors were not allowed into polling centres by the higher election commission.
   
Women voters said they were frustrated at the non-stop bickering that has paralysed politics.
   
"It's frustrating and saddening to see political crises paralyse the country for years. It is very unfortunate that marginal issues have dominated development," Nuha al-Awadhi told AFP.
   
Artist Farida al-Baqsami said that if this election does not solve disputes "then we really do not want this parliament again."
   
Both said they had voted for women and were confident that at least two will be elected while leading liberal candidate Rula Dashti said she expects that up to four women will enter parliament.
   
The candidates include 16 women -- down from 27 in each of the past two elections, but analysts still expect the first female MPs to be elected this time.
   
Women are standing and voting in the emirate for only the third time. The election conicides with the fourth anniversary of Kuwaiti women securing their rights.
   
The new parliament faces an immediate hurdle in that it will be asked to give retrospective approval to a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package already implemented by the government. Many candidates vowed to oppose it.
   
Six Sunni and Shiite Islamist, liberal and nationalist opposition groups are fielding some 22 candidates in the vote and backing about 15 others, according to an AFP survey.
   
The country's population was 3.44 million by the end of 2008 but two thirds of those are foreigners and only 385,000 people are eligible to vote from among the native population of 1.1 million.
   
Men and women voted in separate polling stations. Women voters make up 54.3 percent of the electorate.
   
First results are expected early on Sunday as ballot papers are counted manually.
   
The interior ministry has mobilised some 8,000 policemen for election day.
   
Kuwait, which says it sits on 10 percent of global crude oil reserves, pumps 2.2 million barrels a day.

Date created : 2009-05-16

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