Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

New Kuwait elections on horizon

A lawyer stands outside the constitutional court in Kuwait City after lawmakers forced new parliamentary elections (AP)
A lawyer stands outside the constitutional court in Kuwait City after lawmakers forced new parliamentary elections (AP)

Kuwait's constitutional court has forced new parliamentary elections, dissolving the current chamber on the basis of flaws in the election law, the state news agency has reported. The decision may set the stage for a new wave of political showdowns in the Gulf nation.

The ruling follows objections to the voting law in December's election, which was boycotted by opposition groups and others who claimed the new rules favoured Kuwait's ruling family and were imposed without public debate.

The official Kuwait News Agency said the court's decision "invalidates" the 50-member chamber. Other local media said the decision was over technicalities in the rules and the court upheld controversial regulations that brought a one-person, one-vote system in place of the former rules that allowed voters to cast ballots for multiple candidates.

The government and other backers of the new system claim that multiple votes opened the way for pressures on voters to favour tribal or political blocs. Islamists groups and other opposition factions say the one-vote system is an attempt by Kuwait's leaders to weaken anti-government voices.

Kuwait allows the most political openness among the Gulf Arab states and opposition groups have sharply stepped up pressures on the Western-backed ruling family in recent years. A statement by Kuwait's information minister, Sheik Salman Sabah Al-Sabah, said the state "respects the rule of law on any verdict issued by the constitutional court".

Kuwait's emir is expected to set a new election day, possibly within three months.

Kuwait's political battles have spilled over into crackdowns on social media. Jail sentences have been imposed on dozens of activists and political figures, including former parliament members, for posts deemed insulting to the country's ruler.

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