Polls open in Kuwait’s parliamentary elections
Voters in Kuwait have begun casting their ballots in parliamentary election amid disputes over the country’s austerity measures.
One-hundred polling stations opened in the tiny Persian Gulf country at 8 am (0500 GMT) on Saturday and voting is scheduled to last until 8 pm.
Some 483,000 people are eligible to cast their ballots in the seventh parliamentary election since 2006 to choose 50 lawmakers from 293 candidates. Kuwait has a population of 4.4 million, but 70 percent of those are foreigners.
Analysts predict a large turnout in the snap polls due to the return of opposition groups after a four-year boycott in protest at the government amendment of the electoral law.
Hopefuls focused their election campaign on the government’s austerity measures, mainly the hikes in fuel prices.
Some 30 opposition candidates are competing in the election. Opposition candidates called at their election rallies for wide democratic reforms, promising to fight for economic and social justice and to end rife corruption.
The government’s austerity measures, mainly hiking petrol prices, were the top issue at election rallies.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah, the 87-year-old ruler of Kuwait, dissolved the parliament in October, citing “security challenges” caused by parliamentary debates over subsidies.
Lawmakers in the former parliament had called for ministers to be grilled over subsidy cuts, which had been triggered by falling oil revenues.
Kuwait, which sits on seven percent of the world’s proven crude reserves, is totally dependent on its oil revenues to bill its expenses. The government partially lifted subsidies on fuel in September, causing the political dispute in the country.
Initial election results are expected to be announced after 2100 GMT.
Under Kuwait’s constitution, there are no political parties in the kingdom and regardless of who wins the polls, the next prime minister will be a senior member of the Al Sabah ruling family.
Members of the family, in power for the past 250 years, also always occupy the key posts of foreign, interior and defense ministers.