Kuwait elects new parliament on record low turnout

Sun Dec 2, 2012 10:33am EST
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaitis elected a new parliament that is expected to be more cooperative with the government than its predecessor after an opposition boycott of the poll and protests that divided the Gulf Arab state.

The election was the second this year in the oil-rich state, where a series of assemblies have collapsed due to a long-running power struggle between the elected parliament and the cabinet, in which the ruling family holds top posts.

Turnout was 40.3 percent for the poll on Saturday, according to initial figures cited by the Information Ministry, the lowest since and including the first general election held in 1963. Participation in the past three elections was about 60 percent.

The opposition refused to stand in the election, saying a new voting system introduced by the ruling emir would prevent its candidates winning the majority they secured in the last vote in February.

Kuwait's stock index rallied early on Sunday as investors showed confidence the government would be able to follow through on plans to develop the economy now the opposition was out of the National Assembly.

The political turmoil has held up economic reforms and investment, including a 30 billion dinar ($108 billion) development plan aimed at diversifying the heavily oil-reliant economy and attracting foreign investment.

"It is a pro-government parliament. Now the government can do all the things it wanted to, which it said it was prevented from doing. The question now is, will it do it?" said Kuwait University professor of political science Shafeeq Ghabra.

"While it has a parliament that does not oppose it, there is a population which is on the opposition's side," he said, referring to the turnout and protests. "The formula has got more complicated."   Continued...

Newly-elected Member of Parliament Abdallah al Maayouf is carried by supporters, after final results of election are announced, in Kuwait city December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi