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 Islamist-led opposition favourites in Kuwait vote

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PostSubject: Islamist-led opposition favourites in Kuwait vote   Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:59 pm

Islamist-led opposition favourites in Kuwait vote

by Omar Hasan and Wissam Keyrouz
AFP Global Edition

Feb 02, 2012 12:53 EST

Kuwaitis voted on Thursday in a snap
election for the wealthy Gulf state's fourth parliament in less than six
years, with pollsters predicting a solid victory for the Islamist-led


Ballots closed at 1700 GMT with people still inside polling stations.
The count began immediately at some centres, but results are not
expected until early on Friday.
The vote, which followed an
especially tense campaign marred by violence, seeks to end political
disputes that have damaged the country for years.
Female voters
make up 54 percent of the electorate, and 23 women are among 286
candidates standing for the 50-seat legislative body.
Early voter traffic was low but picked up rapidly later, especially in tribal constituencies where men stood in long queues.
state-run KUNA news agency said turnout was about 60 percent one hour
before the close, already higher than the 58 percent recorded in 2009
In Sabah Al-Salem, a tribal area 20 kilometres (13 miles) south of Kuwait City, male voters showed up in large numbers with less than an hour to close of polling.
The voters sounded optimistic.
think the opposition is going to win in an impressive way and this will
lead to stability and embarking on the delayed development plan," Mohammad al-Oteibi, a headmaster, told AFP.
time I did not vote for the tribe's candidates. I picked candidates I
think will serve Kuwait better," 27-year-old government employee Khaled al-Azemi said.
and analysts expect the 400,000-strong electorate to deliver a
resounding victory for the Islamist-led opposition which has campaigned
vigorously for fundamental reforms and against corruption.
"We are very optimistic that the opposition will achieve a majority in the next parliament," former Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai told AFP.
"I am hopeful that disputes will diminish because the opposition will strengthen its presence."
The snap poll was called after Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah dissolved parliament in OPEC's third largest producer following unprecedented protests led by youths inspired by the Arab Spring.
The protests led to the resignation of the previous government and former prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who was replaced by another senior royal.
voters expressed concern that the election, which came after one of the
most aggressive campaigns since Kuwait introduced democracy in 1962,
would not help restore stability.
"The atmosphere is unhealthy and
highly charged... because sectarian and tribal tensions are negatively
impacting our country," former oil minister Adel al-Sabeeh told AFP.
"The opposition is likely to boost its strength but I think we are headed for more disputes."
Others expressed similar worries.
"We are very frustrated and worried about what is happening in Kuwait," said one woman, Umm Saud, after voting in Jabriya, 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Kuwait City.
"I am not optimistic this election will resolve our problems, but I pray that I am wrong."
Fatima Akbar, a former schoolteacher, said she is "hopeful with caution" the election will help stabilise the country.
are worried about the conflicts in Kuwait, especially sectarian
tension" between the Sunni majority and Shiite minority, she said.
between Sunnis and Shiites -- who make up 30 percent of Kuwaitis --
have intensified in recent months, mainly over regional issues such as Bahrain, Iran and Syria.
candidates lamented last year's crackdown on their co-religionists in
Bahrain, while Sunni candidates warned of Shiite Iran's regional
On Monday, tribesmen burned the election tent of a
pro-government candidate after remarks deemed derogatory to a Bedouin
tribe. They also stormed offices of a TV station for hosting a
pro-government candidate.
About 30 international and 300 local observers have been allowed to monitor the election for the first time.
had a population of 3.6 million as of mid-2011, but 68 percent of those
are foreigners with Kuwaitis themselves numbering 1.17 million.
says it sits on 10 percent of global crude reserves and pumps around
3.0 million barrels of oil a day. Thanks to high prices, it has amassed
more than $300 billion (227,400 billion euros) in assets over the past


AFP Global Edition

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Islamist-led opposition favourites in Kuwait vote
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