Opposition eyes comeback in polls
The opposition held massive street protests in 2011 and 2012 demanding democratic reforms and an elected government in the state, which has a population of 4.3 million, of which 70 percent are foreigners. But over the past two years, the strength of the opposition, which last controlled parliament in Feb 2012, weakened considerably. The change in the voting system and the opposition boycott together helped elect a pro-government Assembly that critics often described as a “rubberstamp” parliament.
By boycotting the polls, the opposition sent an important message against the government’s “unconstitutional practices” that undermined true democracy, Islamist candidate Mohammad Al-Dallal said. “After four years (of opposition boycotts), the political situation has deteriorated, corruption became rife and both the government and parliament failed to deal with major economic and security issues,” Dallal, a former opposition MP, told AFP. “That is why the participation of the opposition became necessary to enforce reforms, confront corruption and strengthen democracy,” he said.
Former liberal opposition MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari admitted the boycott failed to achieve its goals. “The boycott failed to abolish the government change in the voting system,” Anjari, who is running for office, said at a symposium this week. “Parliament should not be left without opposition,” he said.
But several opposition figures, including former threetime parliament speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun, have decided to continue with the boycott saying participation will not solve any problem. The opposition is rejoining polls while one of its prominent leaders and former MP Musallam al-Barrak is serving a two-year jail term for criticizing HH the Amir in public.
Kuwait has the Gulf’s oldest elected parliament, but under the constitution, the Amir has extensive powers and can dissolve the legislature at the recommendation of the government. Ruling family members occupy the key portfolios of defense, foreign and interior. While parliament has the power to vote the prime minister and Cabinet members out of office, the set-up means change is not easy.
Political analyst Mohammad Al-Ajmi believes the opposition will have a limited presence in the next parliament, and “will not be a big or effective force”. “I think the next house will be dominated by pro-government lawmakers,” the sociology professor told AFP. Abdali said he thinks that the opposition could have 10 MPs in the next parliament but many of them will be new faces. The elections come as Kuwait, which sits on around seven percent of the world’s proven crude reserves, grapples with a sharp fall in oil prices that pushed it into a budget deficit after 16 years of surpluses. — AFP