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June 30, 2006

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Nur al-Cubicle

From L'Orient-Le Jour:

The return in force of the oppostion, particularly Islamists candidates, in Kuwait's legislative elections on Thursday threatens to renew the institutional crisis around an electoral dispute which had let to the dissolution of the previous Chamber, say analysts.

The oppostion, an alliance of Islamists, liberals and nationalists, won a striking victory, winning 33 seats, an absolute majority in the 50-seat Assembly. Sunni Islamists won 17 seats, a gain of 3, while Shi'ite Islamists won 4 seats, losing 1. None of the 28 women who ran won a seat in an election where women participated for the first time. The best-scoring female candidates were Rola Dashti (1,540 votes) and Nabila al-Anjari (1,056 votes).

The voters sent a strong message to the government in saying they were frustrated by poor policies and corruption, says analyst Jassem al-Saadoon. Saadoon warns that if the government understands the message, it will form a new cabinet and start down a path toward reform and things will go calmly. If they decide to continue with current policies, then we are surely headed for confrontation and crisis. In compliance with Koweiti law, the victors of the election do not form the government; the emirate has no multi-party political system.

Since the introduction of democracy in 1962, a high-ranking member of the ruling al-Sabah family has always presided over the government while other members of the family hold key positions such as the Interior, Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries. The cabinet will resign on Saturday and a new government should be formed within the next two weeks. Parliament will then begin the new session of the legislature.

Parliament has legislative powers but cannot dismiss the government, even if it can censure the Prime Minister and refuse to cooperate with the government. In such a case, the Emir may dissolve Parliament or fire the cabinet. He has always opted for dissolution in the past. Thursday's elections had been anticipated by one year after the dissolution of the Assembly by Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Saba on 21 May following a dispute between government representatives and the opposition.

The opposition demands the reduction of 25 voting districts to 5. It believes this reform is crucial to reduce the influence of tribal and communitarian clevages and vote buying. I believe that the government has little choice. The radical reformists have enough votes in Parliament to paralyse the next government, says politicl analyst Ayed al-Mannna. They could declare non-cooperation with the Prime Minister which would lead to a major constitutional crisis, adds al-Manna.

Nur al-Cubicle

George W. Bush would love it if Palestine had this kind of democracy, with a prince in charge and a withered legislative branch. But alas....

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