Kuwait holds parliamentary election under new voting system

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Voters in Kuwait on Saturday are casting ballots in the country’s second parliamentary election to be held in eight months.

The election, which opposition groups are boycotting, comes after a dull campaign that failed to jolt voters into action.

Most opposition groups are boycotting in protest against an amended electoral law even though the constitutional court upheld it in June, AFP news agency reports.

In previous elections, a Kuwaiti voter was able to vote for a maximum of four candidates for the country’s 50-seat parliament, but under the amended law voters can choose only one.

It is the second time opposition groups are boycotting since the last vote in the December. But they have failed to organize mass rallies as they did ahead of the December polls.

Kuwait bans political parties and opposition politicians said the four-vote system enabled them to form alliances by offering reciprocal backing from their supporters. The government said the voting changes brought Kuwait into line with other countries and would ensure stability.

Saturday's vote will elect a 50-member assembly which can pass legislation and interrogate government ministers.

But the 84-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has the final say in state matters and can dissolve parliament.

Among the 300 hopefuls contesting the 50 parliamentary seats, only a handful of opposition members are running, along with eight women, the lowest number of female candidates since women won political rights in 2005, according to AFP.

This time, the National Democratic Alliance, a liberal grouping, and most bedouin tribes which boycotted the previous polls are taking part.

Voting will take place at 100 polling stations set up in schools.

Around 11,000 police have been mobilized by the interior ministry for the election and the government has allowed international monitors.

But with heavy political disputes since mid-2006, analysts see little hope the election will bring political stability to the Gulf state.

"People are fed up of electing parliaments, especially if the constitutional court upends them," Abdullah al-Shayji, chairman of the political science department at Kuwait University told Reuters news agency.

"People are not really in the mood for politics. They are thinking about where they want to spend their holidays after Ramadan [the Muslim holy month of fasting]. Some people are already out of the country."

(With AFP and Reuters)

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