KUWAIT CITY: Ranging from advocates of Islamic law to Western-style liberals, almost all political groups are boycotting Saturday’s election for Kuwait’s 50-seat parliament.
These opposition groups along with independent opposition members held 36 seats in parliament after February polls which were nullified by Kuwait’s top court in June. Political parties remain banned in the Gulf emirate, although the groups act as de facto parties. The outgoing parliament, dissolved by the emir twice after a court verdict revived it in June, was dominated by pro-government conservatives.
Kuwait’s parliamentary system is unique as candidates contest polls individually, and the government is normally formed from outside parliament and its unelected ministers automatically become MPs and can vote like elected members. The main political groups boycotting the polls are:
- The Islamic Constitutional Movement, political arm of Kuwait’s Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. The ICM has called for political and economic reforms despite advocating a stricter social order. It has not fielded any candidate and is urging voters to shun the ballot.
- The Islamic Salafi Alliance (ISA), an affiliate of the Heritage Revival Society, a purist Sunni religious group with hardline views on morality. It has not publicly said it opposes the election though a majority of its leaders have joined the broad opposition. One of its leaders, former MP Ali Al Omair, known for his pro-government views, is running for a seat.
- The Islamic Ommah Party is the only party in Kuwait although it is not recognised by the state. With its radical and progressive views on reforms, including an elected government and a full parliamentary system, the party has stayed away from the polls.
- The Popular Action Bloc brings together former legislators headed by veteran former speaker Ahmad Al Saadun. The group focuses on populist issues such as housing and salary increases.
- The National Action Bloc, a liberal grouping which is not a part of the main opposition, has joined the boycott.
- The Democratic Forum is a liberal group and strong advocate of political and economic reforms with a priority on development. It has decided to boycott the election, though a few of its members defected and are running.
Almost all Bedouin tribes have announced they are boycotting and the chiefs of two key Bedouin tribes, the Awazem and Ajmans, have come out publicly to urge their tribesmen not to vote.
- Only a Shia group, the National Islamic Alliance, has publicly supported the election and is fielding five candidates, one in each electoral constituency.