Op­po­si­tion eyes come­back in polls

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

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

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