Kuwait liberals make slight gains in parliamentary election results

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Liberals made slight gains in Kuwait’s parliamentary election, according to results early on Sunday, in the Gulf state’s second polls in eight months.

The liberals’ gains were a major blow to Kuwait’s Shiite minority, who lost more than half of their seats in parliament.

The final results, released early Sunday by judicial authorities, showed Shiite candidates winning just eight seats in the 50-member parliament, according to AFP, adding that Shiite candidates had won a record 17 in the previous house elected in December.

Shiites form around 30 percent of Kuwait’s native population of 1.23 million.

Their previous win was scrapped in a court ruling last month.

Saturday’s voter turnout was higher than December, however, up from a record low of 40 percent due to opposition boycott to 52.5 percent, according to official figures.

Average turnout at Kuwaiti polls is around 65 percent, according to AFP.

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

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

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

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)