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Shiite Muslims gain seats in boycotted Kuwait election

Kuwait's minority Shiite Muslims have gained one-third of the parliament in early polls boycotted by majority Sunni candidates. The opposition has vowed to continue protests until the new parliament is abolished.

The opposition did not gain any representative in the 50-seat parliament after it opted to boycott Saturday's polls to protest the government's unilateral amending of Kuwait's key electoral law. Under the previous law, a voter was able to choose a maximum of four candidates, reduced to just one in the new system.

Dissenters vowed Sunday to continue protests until the newly elected parliament is abolished and the disputed voting law scrapped.

The opposition, which held 36 seats in the 2012 parliament, since dissolved, has described the amended law as unconstitutional and says it enables the government to manipulate elections.

"We will continue with our national and peaceful protests under the umbrella of the constitution to bring the downfall of the new parliament," Islamist opposition leader and former member of parliament Faisal al-Muslim told the AFP news agency.

"We call for scrapping this parliament and the repealing of the one-vote decree because this parliament does not represent the Kuwaiti people," al-Muslim said.

The results

Shiites, who make up around 30 percent of Kuwait's population, won 17 seats in the elections held on Saturday, according to the results. Sunni Muslims won four seats in the new parliament, compared to 23 in the previous one. The new parliament also has three women and as many as 30 newcomers.

This 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 crown prince and Prime Minister Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

With a combined population of more than 400,000, Kuwait's three biggest Bedouin tribes - Awazem, Mutair and Ajmans - won only one seat against an average of 17 in previous parliaments because of the boycott.

The Information Ministry website reported early Sunday that turnout was 38.8 percent. It later put the figure at 40.3 percent based on a report by international observers.

hc/mkg (AFP, dpa)