Opposition boycott, protests hit Kuwaiti election

Sat Dec 1, 2012 9:05am EST
 
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by an opposition boycott, protests over a change to the polling rules and a festering political crisis in the U.S.-allied oil producer.

The election is the second this year in the Gulf Arab state, where a series of assemblies have collapsed under the weight of a power struggle between MPs and the cabinet, appointed by the prime minister who is chosen by the ruling emir.

Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis marched on Friday, urging people not to vote in protest at a change to electoral rules they say will skew the outcome in favor of pro-government candidates.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah used emergency powers in October to cut the number of votes per citizen to one from four, saying his decree would fix a flawed system and maintain security and stability.

The opposition, which is made up of Islamist, tribal and liberal lawmakers, as well as youth groups, says the new voting rules are an attempt to skew the parliamentary election in favor of pro-government candidates.

"There is a need for the decree to take the country out of the crisis are in," 51-year-old government worker Khaled Nouri said after voting in an upmarket district south of the capital.

"The wheel of development must continue to turn."

Opposition figures have refused to stand because of the voting rules change ordered by the emir, whose family has ruled for 250 years and dominates the cabinet.   Continued...

 
A woman casts her ballot during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Dasma area in Kuwait city December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi