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Kuwait elects new parliament after opposition boycott

Kuwait's Shiite minority appeared to have made gains in the country's second parliamentary election in the space of a year. Opposition representatives have said turnout was low after an appeal to boycott the vote.

Initial results on Sunday showed that Shiites, who make up about 30 percent of the Kuwaiti population, had won 17 seats out of 50.

Turnout in Saturday's vote was lower than expected in several districts, with government detractors declaring their boycott campaign a success. Opposition figures, who include Islamists, tribal and liberal former lawmakers, refused to stand for vote in a show of protest against changes to the electoral system.

Because political parties are banned, candidates must run as individuals.

Under the changes ordered by the country's ruler, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on October 19, Kuwaitis were only able to vote for one candidate in one of the country's five constituencies. Under the old system, they were able to vote for four.

Opposition politicians argue that these amendments would skew the results in favor of pro-government candidates. They also argued it would encourage vote-buying and other corrupt practices.

The poll was the second general election to be held in Kuwait in 10 months. In June, Kuwait's constitutional court quashed the results of a February election in which the opposition had won a majority. It then reinstated the previous parliament, which was controlled by allies of the emir.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Kuwait City, on Friday to support the opposition's call to boycott the election. Organizers claimed it was the largest rally in the country's history. It was just one of a number of protests, many of which have ended in violence, since the emir issued his decree.

ccp,rc/mkg (AFP, Reuters)