In­fla­tion, hous­ing and sta­bil­ity top vot­ers’ con­cerns

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL - By Faten Omar

KUWAIT:

Kuwaitis of both gen­ders, older and younger, headed to the polls yes­ter­day to se­lect a new 50-mem­ber par­lia­ment. Is­sues like in­fla­tion, hous­ing, the rise of sec­tar­i­an­ism and trib­al­ism were main con­cerns for vot­ers.

Wafaa’ Al-Khala, a re­tired cit­i­zen liv­ing in Shaab, told Kuwait Times that she is op­ti­mistic about the new par­lia­ment. “As a Kuwaiti peo­ple, we are suf­fer­ing from the high prices for al­most ev­ery­thing, such as the rise of petrol prices and school fees. I hope they can re­duce in­fla­tion and lower the costs of liv­ing, she said.

Hana Khaled Al-Sjari, 43, liv­ing in AlDaiya, also de­cried in­fla­tion. She told Kuwait Times, “I hope that the MPs will care for big­ger is­sues not just sec­tar­ian, tribal, and which party [group­ing] they be­long to. We must love Kuwait be­fore any­thing else, and unite. Union is strength.” She added that can­di­dates must fo­cus on lo­cal is­sues such as em­ploy­ment, hous­ing, health care and ed­u­ca­tion.

Po­lit­i­cal is­sues

Some vot­ers fo­cused on solely po­lit­i­cal con­cerns. Haya Al-Maqroun, a 32 cit­i­zen liv­ing in Shaab was un­happy with the sin­gle-vote sys­tem. “I work at the Par­lia­ment and I want to talk about the sin­gle-vote sys­tem which en­cour­ages sec­tar­i­an­ism and trib­al­ism. There are a lot of fam­i­lies fight­ing be­cause one mem­ber voted for can­di­date x and an­other fam­ily mem­ber pre­ferred can­di­date z. The vote is no longer based on the elec­toral pro­gram or the ef­fi­ciency of the can­di­date, but based on sec­tar­ian or fam­ily,” Maqroun ex­plained. “Be­cause I work in the po­lit­i­cal main­stream, I was able to study the can­di­dates be­fore I voted. I’m op­ti­mistic that the new Na­tional Assem­bly will take col­lec­tive ac­tion to make a clear agenda that goes along with Kuwait’s in­ter­est.” For her, wasta (con­nec­tions) and cor­rup­tion are also ma­jor con­cerns and she called on the newly-elected law­mak­ers to fo­cus on this is­sue.

En­gi­neer Ali Al-Farsi,42, lives in West Mishref, said that his main con­cerns as a voter in­cluded the dearth of ser­vices and the struc­tural prob­lems in the ed­u­ca­tion and health care sec­tors in Kuwait. For Um Hus­sain, a 50 year-old house­wife from Ru­math­yia, the main is­sue driv­ing her vote was a mat­ter of pol­i­tics. She voted for former law­maker who was “known for his actions”. “He was the one who stood for the wronged ones,” she said with­out giv­ing any spe­cific names. “We have a big is­sue that no one is talk­ing about, and it is closed be­cause of po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. There are in­no­cent peo­ple in Kuwaiti pris­ons, the files of those peo­ple should be open and have a sec­ond chance in re-trial,” she said.

Pass­ing na­tion­al­ity

Hayfa Al-Mubark, who voted for the first time, called on the new elected par­lia­ment to work to change the law re­gard­ing women and pass­ing na­tion­al­ity to their chil­dren.

“Kuwaiti women who are mar­ried to non-Kuwaitis suf­fer be­cause they can­not pass na­tion­al­ity to their chil­dren. I hope the new par­lia­ment can make fairer laws to give our chil­dren the na­tion­al­ity of their mother,” she said. She also hopes that the par­lia­ment works on im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion and up­dat­ing Kuwait’s ag­ing cur­ricu­lum.

The par­lia­men­tary polls were orig­i­nally sched­uled for June 2017, the end of the four-year term of the par­lia­ment elected in July 2013. How­ever, His High­ness the Amir dis­solved the par­lia­ment in Oc­to­ber and, con­se­quently, snap polls were sched­uled for Novem­ber 26. None of the par­lia­ments elected in Kuwait since 2003 have man­aged to com­plete their four-year ten­ure, and there is a grow­ing call from Kuwaiti cit­i­zens for more po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity so that chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try can be ad­dressed more ef­fec­tively.

A Kuwaiti woman looks for her name be­fore cast­ing her vote for the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions at a polling sta­tion.

A child holds up a can­di­date’s poster out­side a polling sta­tion yes­ter­day.—Pho­tos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

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