27 Kuwaiti MPs to boycott snap election in July

Former opposition officials vow not to take part in vote as political turmoil shows no sign of abating
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Courtney Trenwith
Mon 24 Jun 2013 12:08 PM

Twenty-seven former opposition MPs in Kuwait have vowed to boycott the country’s snap election – the sixth in recent years – in what could lead to continued political uncertainty.

However, leaders of the country’s largest tribe, Awazem, said they would participate in the July 25 poll, a decision seen as a blow to the protestors’ bid to encourage Kuwaitis to also boycott.

The Constitutional Court last week dissolved the National Assembly and confirmed a controversial amendment to the electoral law that means constituents can now only vote for one candidate instead of four.

The ruling was made after the court rejected opposition challenges to the electoral system changes.

The amendment was decreed six weeks before last December’s poll and led to mass protests. The opposition also boycotted that vote, claiming the amendment weakened its position and that changes to the voting system should be agreed by parliament.

There had been relative political stability following the election but the situation again turned sour last month.

In mid-May several Kuwaiti ministers resigned in protest against what they claimed was a government boycott of parliament as it attempted to prevent questioning of the oil minister over the payment of $2.2bn in compensation to Dow Chemical after cancelling a joint project.

Some MPs claim officials have profited from Kuwait’s decision to scrap the deal.

The National Assembly has been unable to sit due to a lack of quorum on at least two occasions.

A fresh election has been scheduled for July 25.

Awazem tribe chief Falah bin Jame on Sunday called on the tribe’s members to participate in the vote, while former opposition MP Falah Al-Sawwagh appealed to his tribesmen to boycott it.

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court said it would explain its ruling on Wednesday next week, in response to a petition lodged by a member of the scrapped assembly, Abdulhameed Dashti, Kuwait Times reported.

Dashti has called on the court to explain whether the new ruling meant the 2009 assembly would be reinstated.

That assembly was dissolved in December 2011 and a new election was held in February 2012.

That election process was nullified in June when the Constitutional Court ruled it invalid and ordered the 2009 assembly be reinstated.

However, some MPs in the revived parliament boycotted sessions, forcing the government to recommend to the Emir that it be dissolved. Another election was held on December 1, 2012.

Kuwait's parliament has lawmaking powers and can hold government ministers to account, however, the emir has the final say and chooses the prime minister, who picks a cabinet. Members of the ruling al-Sabah family usually occupy the top positions.

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