Kuwait’s elections bring little change in parliament or hope to break years of gridlock

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwaiti voters returned a majority of their lawmakers to parliament in the third election in as many years, amid widespread frustration with the ongoing political stalemate, according to results released Wednesday.

Thirty-seven lawmakers retained their seats in the 50-member assembly after Tuesday’s election, state news agency KUNA reported. Authorities did not release an official turnout figure, which analysts expected to be low.

Kuwait is alone among the Gulf Arab states in having a democratically elected parliament that exercises some checks on the ruling family, which nevertheless appoints the government and can dissolve the assembly at will.

In recent years, the entanglement between the appointed government and the assembly has prevented even basic reforms in the small, oil-rich country.

The last election, held in September, provided a mandate for change, with most incumbents out of the House. But in March, the Constitutional Court annulled the decision to dissolve the previous assembly, restoring the body elected in 2020. The ruling family then dissolved that chamber for a second time, confirming this week’s vote.

This time, only one woman was elected to the 50-member assembly, while the previous parliament had two and the one before that was all-male. Women’s rights advocates say the country is regressing in part because of the growing power of conservative Islamists and tribal members in parliament.

Marzouk al-Ghanim, an influential politician who served as speaker in the 2020 parliament, may soon return to his post after being re-elected. A scion of a powerful family seen as representing the country’s business community, he has been fiercely critical of Kuwait’s current prime minister, the son of its eight-year ruling emir.

Al-Ghanim is likely to face veteran opposition politician Ahmed al-Saadoun, who was speaker of the 2022 parliament. Al-Sadoun retained his seat, but received less than half the 12,000 votes he secured last September.

Kuwait’s political impasse worsened in 2020 after the death of its ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, a seasoned diplomat who had ruled the country for nearly 15 years.

The 91-year-old was succeeded by his ailing half-brother, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah took over day-to-day management. Both are in their 80s and the line of succession to Sheikh Meshaal is unclear.

Sheikh Nawaf’s son, Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, was appointed prime minister last year, but has recently drawn fierce criticism from al-Ghanim and others.

Kuwait is one of the richest countries in the world, with the sixth largest oil reserves and the well-being of its 1.5 million citizens from cradle to grave. But many say the government has not invested adequately in education, health and other services.


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