Kuwaitis head to polls amid opposition boycott | News | DW | 01.12.2012
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Kuwaitis head to polls amid opposition boycott

Voters in Kuwait are going to the polls in parliamentary elections. The previous one saw opposition parties win a majority - but a court annulled the results. This time the opposition are calling for a boycott.

Not only is Saturday's election the second in Kuwait within the space of a year, but it is also the fifth time voters have gone to the polls since 2006.

Compared to many other countries, voter turnout for past parliamentary elections in the country has been relatively high at between 60 and 80 percent. However, many observers expect that figure to be lower this time around due to widespread voter fatigue and an opposition boycott over changes to the electoral system.

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

Turbulent political year

Opposition politicians, who have decided not to run in the election, argue that these amendments will skew the results in favour of pro-government candidates. They also argue that it will encourage vote-buying and other corrupt practices.

Kuwait has been in political turmoil since June, when Kuwait's constitutional court quashed the results of the 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.

While Kuwait's parliament does have legislative powers, the emir has the sole power to appoint the prime minister, who in turn chooses the cabinet.

pfd/jm (Reuters, AFP)