Tsunami of change dumps old guard by the way­side

Amir con­grat­u­lates win­ners Big names fade, small tribes shine

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By B Iz­zak

KUWAIT: The 2016 Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­tions sprang a num­ber of ma­jor sur­prises that in­cluded the fail­ure of many big names and the bat­ter­ing of the three big­gest Be­douin tribes, out­go­ing As­sem­bly mem­bers, and Shi­ite can­di­dates. At the same time, the elec­tion saw sig­nif­i­cant gains by the op­po­si­tion and its sup­port­ers, an im­por­tant in­jec­tion of fresh young blood and a stel­lar and un­ex­pected per­for­mance by smaller tribes.

Mean­while, HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad AlJaber Al-Sabah sent ca­bles of con­grat­u­la­tions yes­ter­day to the win­ners of the elec­tions. The Amir wished the win­ners suc­cess in their du­ties aim­ing to serve and de­velop the dear home­land. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf AlAh­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah sent sim­i­lar ca­bles to the new MPs.

Writ­ing on his Twit­ter ac­count, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Salah AlFadhli de­scribed the elec­tion re­sults as a “tsunami of change be­cause they were like a tor­nado that up­rooted many fig­ures”. Only 20 out of the 50 mem­bers of the out­go­ing As­sem­bly were re-elected, a mas­sive 60 per­cent turnover. As many as 42 mem­bers of the dis­solved house con­tested the polls, while the re­main­ing did not take part for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Promi­nent among those de­feated in­clude for­mer pub­lic works min­is­ter Ali Al-Omair, who se­cured a small num­ber of votes in the third con­stituency, for­mer min­is­ter of jus­tice and Is­lamic af­fairs Ya­coub AlSane and deputy speaker Mubarak Al-Khrainej.

In the first con­stituency, promi­nent losers in­cluded for­mer Shi­ite MPs Faisal Al-Duwaisan, Hus­sein Al-Qal­laf and Yousef Al-Zalza­lah. As a re­sult, Shi­ite strength in this key con­stituency dropped to four MPs com­pared to five pre­vi­ously. For­mer MP Ab­dul­hameed Dashti was pre­vented from con­test­ing and re­mains out­side the coun­try.

Di­vi­sions within parts of the com­mu­nity im­pacted the Shi­ite per­for­mance and re­duced them from nine MPs in the pre­vi­ous house to just six. At the same time, for­mer com­merce min­is­ter Salah Khor­shid and Khaled Al-Shatti, both Shi­ites, man­aged to re­turn. Other promi­nent fig­ures who lost in­clude for­mer MPs Kamel Al-Awadhi, Ab­dul­lah Al-Tu­raiji, Ah­mad Al-Mu­laifi and Ah­mad Al-Qud­haibi, all Sun­nis. This was more than com­pen­sated by im­pres­sive wins by for­mer MPs Ab­dul­lah Al-Roumi, Adel Al-Damkhi and Osama Al-Sha­heen.

The coun­try’s three ma­jor Be­douin tribes - Awazem, Mu­tair and Aj­man - which nor­mally had be­tween 15 and 18 seats among them, man­aged only a mea­ger seven seats, their worst per­for­mance ever. At the same time, smaller tribes made an un­ex­pect­edly strong show­ing, with al­most all small tribes rep­re­sented. The Enezi tribe, which nor­mally has one or two seats, this time bagged four, and tribes that usu­ally never won seats have at least one each.

Jahra, which makes up al­most a third of the fourth tribal con­stituency, won six of the 10 seats in the dis­trict against two to three seats nor­mally. Mu­tair, the largest tribe in the con­stituency which usu­ally wins four to five seats, man­aged only one, be­cause too many Mu­tairi can­di­dates split the votes. In the fifth con­stituency, the Awazem and Aj­man used to win four seats each out of the avail­able 10. On Satur­day, the Awazem only won a sin­gle seat, while the Aj­man bagged two.

The other main losers were pro-govern­ment Salafist Is­lamists, who along with sup­port­ers had about 6-7 seats in the pre­vi­ous house, but were re­duced to noth­ing, with fig­ures like Ah­mad Baqer, Omair, Hu­moud Al-Ham­dan and Ah­mad Al-Azemi all los­ing. This is the strong­est blow to this group. The op­po­si­tion-linked Salafists how­ever re­turned to the As­sem­bly in an im­pres­sive man­ner, win­ning five seats along with sup­port­ers. The Is­lamic Con­sti­tu­tional Move­ment (ICM), the Mus­lim Brother­hoodlinked group, gave one of its best per­for­mances, win­ning around six seats, while they only had one sup­porter in the out­go­ing As­sem­bly.

Although the op­po­si­tion and its al­lies made an im­pres­sive show­ing, win­ning nearly half of the As­sem­bly seats, a num­ber of key op­po­si­tion fig­ures lost. These in­clude for­mer MPs Mubarak Al-Waalan, Salem Al-Nam­lan, Hus­sein Al-Mu­tairi and Ha­mad Al-Matar. The op­po­si­tion’s per­for­mance and weight will de­pend on its unity and whether it can form a for­mi­da­ble force in the As­sem­bly.

The first lit­mus test will be the bat­tle for the speaker’s post. At least two fig­ures - MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri from the op­po­si­tion and vet­eran MP Ab­dul­lah Al-Roumi, also close to the op­po­si­tion, have al­ready said they will com­pete with out­go­ing speaker Mar­zouq Al-Ghanem. So Kuwait ap­pears at a cross­roads: If the govern­ment fails to co­op­er­ate with the op­po­si­tion, it is tipped to wit­ness a re­peat of the po­lit­i­cal crises of the past few years, but this can be avoided if a co­op­er­a­tion for­mula is reached.

An­a­lyst Da­hem Al-Qah­tani said the op­po­si­tion had made an “im­pres­sive show­ing”. “Kuwaiti vot­ers have pun­ished those who let them down... and re­jected the aus­ter­ity mea­sures,” he told AFP. Qah­tani said for the govern­ment to pre­vent a stand­off, it should make ini­tia­tives for co­op­er­a­tion with the op­po­si­tion. “If the govern­ment makes such ini­tia­tives, it may suc­ceed in strik­ing a needed po­lit­i­cal bal­ance and avoid dis­putes,” he said. “If not, con­fronta­tions could start from day one,” Qah­tani said.

“There are many is­sues that could spark dis­putes: Eco­nomic mea­sures, re­vok­ing of cit­i­zen­ships and others,” po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Mo­ham­mad Al-Ajmi told AFP. An­a­lyst Ibrahim Al-Had­ban said the elec­tion cam­paign had shown that some of the de­ci­sions taken by the govern­ment were not pop­u­lar among cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing rais­ing gaso­line prices. “MPs who were in the As­sem­bly did not ob­ject to these de­ci­sions. So, in my view, they were blamed and pun­ished,” Had­ban, who teaches po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Kuwait Univer­sity, told Reuters.

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