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Islamists register big gains in Kuwaiti parliamentary elections

Special to WorldTribune.com

ABU DHABI — Sunni Islamists have won a majority of Kuwait’s
parliament.

Authorities said Islamic opposition candidates won 34 out of 50 seats in
the parliament. They said Sunni Islamists, bolstered by tribal support, won
23 seats, compared to nine in the previous parliament. No women were
elected.

A Kuwaiti citizen casts his vote at a polling station in Kuwait City on Feb. 2. /AP/Gustavo Ferrari

“The Kuwait of tomorrow will not be the Kuwait of yesterday,” said Obeid Al Wasmi, a key opposition figure elected to parliament.

In contrast, Shi’ites, who comprise more than 45 percent of the Gulf Cooperation Council sheikdom, won seven seats, most of them Islamist candidates. In the previous parliament, nine Shi’ites had served.

Al Wasmi and other opposition parliamentarians pledged to intensify their fight against corruption, particularly in the ruling Al Sabah family. Al Wasmi said he would lobby to release evidence of corruption against senior officials when parliament begins its session in mid-February, Middle East Newsline reported.

Pro-government candidates did poorly in the elections, said to have been the most violent in years. Royalists won only a handful of
seats, with many losing their reelection bid amid an investigation over
corruption charges.

The Salafists, regarded as followers of Al Qaida, increased their
representation from three to 12 seats. The Salafists have been vociferous
opponents of the U.S. military presence in Kuwait, with more than 25,000
troops.

“Tribalism and Islamism have proven that they are undoubtedly the most
significant factors in the elections, much greater than any other
consideration,” Kuwaiti analyst Mohammed Al Suhaili said.

The Islamic victory has sparked concern within the Al Sabah family and
analysts expect Emir Sabah to disband the new parliament. Prime Minister
Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah urged the new deputies to act responsibly
as Kuwait faces what he termed a “dangerous stage.”

One scenario raised by senior officials was that the Islamist deputies
would intensify protests against the royal family. Officials said the
sheikdom would increase domestic security to counter unrest.

“As a state of law, Kuwait will spare no effort to maintain the rule of
law,” Interior Minister Ahmed Al Humoud Al Jaber Al Sabah said.

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